45 Minutes, Swan Youth Theatre in Yeovil

prompt45 MinutesNINE members of the youth theatre group at the Swan Theatre in Yeovil last week tackled a play written by one of the country’s brightest young stars, Anya Reiss, for the National Theatre’s annual Connections festival in 2013.

The playwright was 22 when she turned in this real-time tour de force, so it is (almost) as up to the minute as it could be.

Set in a school computer room in 2011, it follows the panic of a group of six sixth formers told by the drama teacher that instead of the week’s grace they had anticipated, they have just 45 minutes to complete their all-important UCAS forms which will be their only chance of a place in university.

It cleverly conveys not only the anger, fear and desperation of this unexpectedly tight deadline, but also questions the current expectation of a university training for everyone.

One cast member was forced to drop out at short notice, and his place was taken by the experienced Jack Osmond, who has been on stage in Billy Elliot and The Wizard of Oz.

The six hopefuls are joined in the room by two fourteen-year-olds, creating even more tension.

Swat Alex (Grace Horder) gets her form completed first, and is in demand to help jock Nathan (Tom Ball) and the hysterical Louise (Leona Beaver).

Trent (Ed Holt) knows his parents expect him to apply, and he tries to comfort Louise, while avoiding the devotion of Georgie (Sarah Middleditch on the night I saw the play, in a role shared with Danielle Turner).

There’s lots of anger and testosterone in this computer room, as each of the candidates exposes personal insecurities, thrown into cruel relief by the younger know-it-all Michaela (Amy Kemp) and her classmate Lara (Tasia Ling-Marriott).

It was a clever idea that it was a drama teacher who told this group about a new deadline, and they never suspected a ruse – nor checked their information packs. And it provides an entertaining and vital play for young actors.

The energy and conviction never flagged in Helen Geen’s sparse production, and it is yet more proof that Yeovil really does have an extraordinary store of theatrical talent.


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