Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

I am top

I Am

Stage2 Youth Theatre

Crescent Theatre Studio


Youth is universal. Every generation passes through it and it is, was and always will be a time with an uncertain future, a troubled present and a perplexing past.

We enter into a world not of our making and we enter long before we know who we are or where our place in our blurred vision of a future will lie

And that is the rationale behind this stark and telling home-grown production, a question of who I Am, devised and written by the cast and crew from their own and shared experiences, the voices of youth in a changing world expressed by them, for themselves and for those prepared to listen.

In my day as Grandad, played with youthful antiquity by Lewis Grego might have put it, homosexuality was illegal until a landmark Sexual Offences Act in 1967 made it legal, but only from the age of 21, so there were no gays, not openly at any rate, non-binary was decimal and transgender? Was that something to do with whether it was la or le in French?

We did have the constant threat of nuclear war and four minute warnings mind, but we also invented the swinging 60s and free love so we had something to do in the four minutes if nothing else. Against today though, life was relatively simple, we might say straightforward.

The youth of Stage2 face a new world order, one alien to the generation that created them. They present first as the chorus, who, as in their Greek theatrical heritage, guide us through their unfamiliar new world, with characters escaping from their number to tell us of the traps and traumas they encounter in the setting of a secondary school.

Pronouns for example, when it comes to Quinn, a powerful performance from Arrow Jackson, who presents us with a minefield in one troubled soul, raising a question of non-binary and what it means, along with non-gender specific pronouns that have hardly been common usage since Shakespeare’s time and opening up the whole subject of transgender.

It is something fellow pupil Luke, given an underlying air of macho by Casey-James Connolly-Guy either finds difficult to comprehend, or more likely, really does not want to comprehend, almost as if he might catch it . . . whatever it is.

Then there is Ben, a wonderful uneasy performance from Rudy Hudson. His father has died and his mother has two jobs to keep body and soul . . . surviving. He is left in charge of his brother, a job he finds beyond him, and is tortured by his sexuality or more his uncertainty of how he will grow into or even cope with who he is.

i am king

Arrow Jackson as Quinn talking to Evie Mumford as Miss King

It is dilemma to Ben but is simply a weakness seized on by Luke which leads to a physical confrontation and a disciplinary hearing with teachers Miss King and Mr Maji.

Miss King, a confident performance from Evie Mumford, brings in the question of a duty of care and whether Ben’s mother should be told about his sexuality.

Krrish Mehta’s well portrayed Mr Maji defends Ben and a compromise is reached that only the fight will be reported to the mother.

We are to discover Mr Maji is gay, something Luke also discovered, and salacious graffiti sees him suspended with no proof save scrawls on a wall. You think that couldn’t happen? It has, and more than once.

In a supreme irony it is Casey-James Connolly-Guy, who plays Luke, who also plays the head, Mr Langley, suspending Mr Maji. It poses the thorny question of is it a case of the school playing safe at the expense of playing fair? Duty of care perhaps?

Luke is a loose cannon with transgender, sexuality and even religion beyond his comprehension. There is the delightful Leena Patel as Iman who explains that for a Muslim wearing a hijab, which she doesn’t, is her choice, it is not a compulsion of her religion – a distinction way beyond his right and wrong world of strict conventions who can only see her as a Muslim who is not Muslim enough to wear a hijab. Facts trumped by prejudice.

He struggles with all relationship it seems, Kelly, played with teenage charm by Evie Mumford again, is holding an end of mocks party, and is propositioned by Luke on the flimsy basis she is “fit”.  She turns him down . . . well for now. And they say romance is dead . . .

Mollie Oldershaw gives a lovely performance as Allie, Ben’s best friend at the same party. It is a Platonic affair with Allie understanding what Ben is going through but we see the tension when she accuses him of making his whole life and that of everyone around him as about him and only him. His worries about his sexuality now dominating his life.

Silence can be telling as Hanna Rust shows as Fleur, autistic Fleur who has hidden herself away in a world of silence with her mother and father at odds of how to deal with it.

There are more general themes. Votes at 16, for example, on the basis teenagers will have to live with the mess adults create so should at least have a say. Then there is citizenship, can you only be British if you are born here? No guessing where Luke stands, which in turn brings in discrimination in all its guises.

I am bottom

Casey-James Connolly-Guy as Luke with members of his class behind

Then there are families and Arrow Jackson leaves the audience spellbound with a powerful monologue as Quinn. A tale of a broken family, an abusive step-father, a jailed drug addict mother, foster homes and a need for a family who refuse to see her and have abandoned her.

She needs help but with Miss King away and Mr Maji being suspended she is told by Mr Langley to come back tomorrow. And tomorrow was too late to save the now late Quinn. A problem no one was there to solve and death for her peers to cope with.

There is excellent support from Mark Smith-Alonso as Chloe, Dory Fletcher as Daisy, Edie Fletcher as Ellen, Lauren Brine as Hillary, James Woodman as John, Aleksander Harney as Nico, Sammy Whiting who weighs in as Officer Owens (I know policemen look younger as you get older but . . . surely I’m not that old), while Ono Mazaheri provides us with Peter and Elle-May Whitehouse is Rebecca.

They are a cast emerging from the chorus to give us extra pupils, mums, dads, sisters, brothers, all highlighting facets of the complex, interlocking lives faced by what these days are ordinary pupils in an ordinary secondary school in what is regarded as an ordinary world.

And behind them are the real chorus, 15 actors, who, as always in Stage2, serve a purpose whenever they appear.

It is a well written, well observed piece created from scratch over the summer by the cast and crew and turned into words by director Rosie Nisbet, assistant directors Dorothy Hill and Moriah Potter and actors Lauren Brine, Krrish Mehta and Aleksander Harney.

Charlie Moore’s lighting design, operated by Jacob Lenton, is intelligent and highlights scenes while Joel Fleming, on sound, keeps the sound levels of pulsating beats and sad or telling ballads at levels to resonate with an audience without drowning their senses, The production also includes snatches of interviews with pupils, parents and people connected with Stage2.

This is a thoughtful, innovative and important piece based on actual people and events and gives a voice to the generation who will inherit our earth and the trials and tribulations they face on their journey to adulthood. And in thirty years or so . . . their children will be that same next generation, questioning the world their own parents have created. The circle of life. To 23-12-23.

Roger Clarke


Crescent Theatre


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