There is a unique beauty in reading a script or watching a production and realising that the events that unfold can be attributed to a personal experience. Perhaps a scene seems as though it was taken from the past, or a speech resonates within and stirs a long distant memory. This is how the storytellers in Intermission Youth Theatre seem to have felt; as they take centre stage on Catherine Morgan’s minimalist set, they prepare to reveal a portion of themselves that mimics poignant passages in one of Shakespeare’s many works. The writers describe highly personal and traumatic aspects of their past to an audience before one of their fellow actors re-enacts a matching passage chosen from the multitude of the great playwright’s back catalogue. Over the course of an hour, the audience are treated to plays and sonnets coupled with issues around identity, depression and even loss.
Each of the six storytellers digs deep into their turbulent lives. As they stand downstage, leather folders clutched in their hands like an orator, they look vulnerable. Before each story even begins, the audience know that this will be a highly personal account and difficult to deliver – each of the six deserve praise for this level of transparency and openness. Darren Raymond directs each to speak with their own words and their own voice, so that a parallel can easily be drawn between the old English of Shakespeare and the modern dialect of the twenty-first century youth. The stories are all directed towards an emotion, be it of forgiveness or sadness, pain or jealousy. Some of the speakers are stronger in their delivery than others – Stephanie Badaru in particular gives a layered, subtle performance. Despite conveying issues of hatred and pain, she speaks softly and lets her experience breathe; there’s no need for raised voices or angry tones, as the words say more than her voice ever could.
Once the storytellers finish, an actor marries the memory with an excerpt from Shakespeare. All manner of works are brought to life, from well-known passages in Hamlet and Othello to more obscure plays such as King John; even verses from his 154 accredited sonnets are woven in with the personal accounts. Once again, some of the actors are stronger than others; none more so than Stevie Basuala, whose monologue from The Merchant of Venice ebbs and flows with well-judged pace and tone.
My Story, My Music, My Monologues is not a professional production. The musical transitions between stories are irritating at best with little sense of musicality or composition. The performances are not polished or nuanced. But the stories are real, the experiences are emotional and the message is powerful. In these monologues, Intermission Youth Theatre prove that even 400 years after his death, the words of the Bard are just as relevant as they once were.
My Story, My Music, My Monologues is playing at St Saviour’s Church until 23 April. For more information see the Intermission Youth Theatre website.