Following last season’s success with A Monster Calls, The Watermill’s Youth Ensemble take the stage with another thrilling production. Since its post-pandemic launch, the Youth Ensemble has established itself as an integral part of The Watermill’s programming. Participants of any of The Watermill’s regular Outreach groups are eligible to join the Youth Ensemble productions, offering the opportunity to create a full-scale production on the venue’s professional stage.
Playwright Becca Chadder’s decision to adapt Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Through the Looking-Glass: And What Alice Found There, was a serendipitous one. It was an adaptation Becca had long considered before being approached about the project by the Watermill. She wanted to explore the strange world of Lewis Carroll and felt that the non-sense landscape of the book would work well to create a really fun piece for the Youth Ensemble and audiences alike.
Becca Chadder has a longstanding involvement with the Outreach programme, where she started performing at the age of eight. Becca later wrote for youth productions as a member and went on to become a Writer in Residence at The Watermill. She is now the youngest member of the board of trustees. Becca wrote the adaptation with these experiences in mind, hoping to provide a script that would be playful and allow the young actors to shine.
The cast is made up of thirty-one performers with a team of six backstage, including one work experience placement in the technical department. The backstage roles cover technical work, stage design, directing, stage management, and documentation of the rehearsal process. The Youth Theatre is as much about the world behind the scenes as it is about shining on stage – there’s a role for every young person who wants to be involved.
The production is set to be the first at the theatre where every performance will be BSL integrated, captioned, audio described and relaxed. This holistic approach to access speaks to the Outreach team’s ongoing mission to make The Watermill a welcoming space for all.
Design is by Constance Villemot, direction by Matty Green, assistant direction by Harriet Taylor, costume supervision by Anett Black, lighting design by Jack Evans and BSL consultation by Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford.
Becca Chadder said, “It’s a dream come true to return to the Watermill Youth Theatre as a playwright after growing up a member of the company. I learnt so much from my time at the Watermill that has shaped who I am today, so it’s a real honour to play a part in the work they do.”
Matty Green, Director and Outreach Assistant, said, “The Youth Ensemble is a brilliant opportunity for young people to be a part of a theatrical process from start to end, working with professional production teams. This can be onstage or behind the scenes in directing, design, tech and beyond, which for many of us here at the Watermill is how we started our journey to a career in the arts. Our Youth Ensemble is open to any participant from our regular Outreach groups, which can mean that young people can find their place working on a large-scale production like this, where in some cases performing in one might be a daunting prospect. Working on this project with this excellent group of young people and brilliant crew has been a blast and I’m excited for our audiences to see this story!”
The Watermill is a 200-seat regional powerhouse, with an unparalleled reputation for producing bold, world-class theatre with local and national reach from its home in West Berkshire. It also has an extensive programme of community outreach, and schools touring work, and a firm commitment to diversity, education, and talent development.
In the wake of the shock news that The Watermill Theatre had 100% of its annual funding from Arts Council England cut, the Newbury venue has launched a new fundraising campaign – THRIVE. Individuals can donate from as little £1 to show their support and ensure that the work of The Watermill, and everyone who is part of its community, can continue to thrive. There is also the option of becoming a Friend of the Watermill, from as little as £30 per year.