Beyond the Blue is raising standards and redefining the role of theatre in education. Actors Alive is an innovative youth theatre company at Omnibus Clapham which is led by director and teacher Camilla Gürtler. The most impressive feat is that this play about the refugee crisis was written by five to seven year olds.
The play takes place in Toyland, a totalitarian regime, where toys aren’t allowed to laugh or play. The only options are to submit to the queen and the state or to join the army. The plot follows a group of four brave toys who are forced from Toyland due to the severe police state and are in search for a new land where they can be themselves. The children of Actors Alive were involved in the writing, directing, set design as well as choosing the accompanying upbeat songs.
The exodus features Teddy (Ben Bruckshaw), Tiger Girl (Fay Summerfield), Owl (Nell Bradbury) and Monkey (Rebecca Wells) as the toy refugees. The cast are highly talented and their performances bring the colourful characters to life. The performance features skilful songs and dance breaks with popular anthems such as Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”. The performance starts with the four characters entrapped under netting with an unnerving soundscape of overhead planes, explosions, and gun shots. It’s encouraging hearing young children openly grasp the themes of death and identity as well as adding their own interpretation of the scenario.
This play is a way to talk to the next generation about world issues. We’re often afraid of talking to children about the current humanitarian crisis but this is exactly what Beyond the Blue accomplishes. It is refreshing to see these issues through the eyes of the young children of Actors Alive. This show was developed through months of classes discussing what it means to lose one’s home, living in a country at war as well as the difficulties involved in escaping to form a new life. The thorough process is apparent within the writing as the characters do not have an easy journey. The characters face many difficult decisions such as settling in places where they must forsake their identity and choosing whether or not to trust a smuggler.
Despite the serious undertones, the performance is filled with many enjoyable moments. The introduction of the ice penguin to assist the toys escape involves audience interaction, and the audience helps bring the sea monster to life by making the noises. One of the most important features is that the end of the play is written by the audience. This allows young audiences to take an active role in the story.
Beyond The Blue plans to tour to schools and the company also wish to expand by creating similar projects with other young children. This exemplary theatre company is empowering the next generation to take an active role in our current world issues. It would be extremely useful to see more similar programs across other schools.
Beyond The Blue played at Omnibus Clapham on Sunday 16th October. For more information about Actors Alive, see here.