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Thursday, November 01, 2012

St Martin's Youth Theatre Love Letters

Last night I went to see my nephew Max in his youth theatre show. Drama lessons have been good for Max. He started with the National Theatre, but had to drop out for timing reasons. Then his parents discovered the St Martin's program, which is in the afternoon, and he went to my old stomping ground.

I was a member of the MTC Youth Theatre back when St Martin's was just starting to be used for these activities. Two of the members went on to become professional actors and one became a Logie Award winning TV director. As for me, I got to play the Cow in Andre Obey's Noah and do the rooster crow before dropping out. I have a vague memory of watching Westerns to observe the cattle as I had no access to real cows in the middle of Melbourne's beachside suburbs. I think I made a good cow, but acting wasn't for me. I became a children's writer and have never looked back.

But this was different. It was very much an ensemble piece. There were no "stars" or lead roles here. The kids all contributed to the stories that made up the show and worked together to make it go. One story that Max had told was spoken by another boy. Max himself got to talk about music he'd heard "in utero".

The play was in the form of individual stories, separated by characters' thoughts as they posed for a school photo. They weren't all charming stories about your first crush at school, either; Max sang the murder ballad "The Wild Rose" with one of the girls before his character was sent off to hell from the Purgatory Bar. What tickled me is that the piano accompaniment was a recording of him playing, and he played accompaniment all through the show. There was the boy who was in love with a Phoenix and the girl who had the future stored under the floorboards in a silver foil-covered ice cream container, as well as the Justin Bieber-obsessed girl covering him with the Christmas decorations of her expectations like a tree.

I had, of course, expected to cheer on Max, but these kids were all terrific. I suspect there are a few who might make their way on to the professional stage and good luck to them. And those who don't have a good future in other creative areas.

Lucky them, by the way. They got to perform in the Arts Centre, at the Fairfax Studio! Afterwards there was a free bar and garlic pitta and dips, very classy!

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