Acting students embrace tough topics in New Years Eve show

22nd March 2022

Acting students from Stratford-upon-Avon College delivered incredible performances in their latest show which tackled strong social and political issues.

Students on their first year of the Acting course were cast in a show called ‘New Year’s Eve’ which took place in The Willows Theatre. The show was an ensemble theatre piece exploring a range of characters’ lives set at a New Year’s Eve party.

Group shot NYE

The performance was set in a rave environment and had begun before the audience even entered the theatre. The music was pumping, the lights and lazers were flashing and the cast were dancing. Once the performance really began the cast went straight into ensemble dance and movement pieces, expertly choreographed by student Mai Worth.

The movement sequences included dancing, falls, throws and catches. They used different levels and mixed smaller ensembles with full cast numbers. The intimacy and cohesion of the action was breath-taking and really showed off the bravery and skill of the performers involved.

The cast worked seamlessly as an ensemble

The movement sequences were dispersed amongst monologues, duologues and small group scenes which covered a range of topics. Against the backdrop of a fun party with jokes and comedy aplenty, the show brought up topics like racism, police brutality and war.

Dylan Allsop-Judd portrayed a racist football hooligan and gave a spectacularly intense performance. The role was tough for him as it was such a change from the person he is in reality; even his look altered with Dylan cutting his hair and shaving his eyebrows to prepare for the role. The biggest challenge though was performing as a character who used inflammatory language: “The rehearsal process was so hard as I was really uncomfortable using certain language in the show. However, we did a lot of work on taking power out of the language.”

Kerry Downing, the shows director, described why this is important: “This course is a contemporary theatre course which means it looks at theatre that is an attack on modern life. Actors will have to work on sensitive or emotionally charged issues and be able to explore that in a safe and healthy way. All the students have developed amazing skills during this project that they can take with them into the professional world.”

Other actors also showcased amazing performances around tough subjects. Sammy Lees delivered an incredible physical performance showing the effects of drugs whilst Ella Hampson performed a Trainspotting-esque monologue which went dark and intense and was supported by excellent physical theatre by the rest of the cast.

There were so many stand out performances

The audience was continuously kept engaged by the constant move from dark and tough topics that snapped back to comedy. Myron Byfield demonstrated a comic skill that is amazing to see in such a young actor. As well as solo sections where he shone, he also was part of comedy ensemble pieces, being one of four police officers who went from being bumbling bobbies to brutally beating people in their custody.

The whole show was brought together by the excellent lighting operated by J.D Cole and sound operated by Charlotte Manly which effortlessly transported the audience to a nightclub environment. Deputy Stage Manger Nathan Reynolds kept the show in sync and running smoothly and showcased the talent of the Backstage Production Arts students.

Overall, the show demonstrated the amazing talent of this entire cast and crew; tackling such huge, important issues in an entertaining way. It seemed no topic was off limits, and this brave performance showed how important contemporary theatre is in a time where all the themes that were explored are happening in our world right now.

It will be worth keeping an eye out for these performers in the future!

Find out more about the College’s Performing & Production Arts courses: SUAC Onstage