The show opens with contemporary dance from Jazzmates, a group of 6-8 year olds, who present four short pieces based on the idea of The Four Seasons. The dancers use a range of styles to convey the moods of the different seasons: flexibly falling as autumn leaves and bursting with energetic summer sun. The performance is enhanced by the thoughtful use of music, light and colour.
Lifting the Sky, from Oxford Youth Theatre’s (OYT) 8-9 group, uses storytelling and mime to act out a traditional Polynesian story about Ru, a spirit who liberates people by lifting the sky from their backs. The islanders begin by celebrating their freedom, but end by using it to mistreat the natural world.
The tale of Ru is picked up by OYT’s 6 and 7 year-olds who present the story of Ru’s dream, in which the sea holds a party for the sun, moon, stars and wind. Parties are one of those things that even the youngest children are knowledgeable about, which may explain the confidence and enthusiasm with which the performers enter into The Biggest Party on Earth.
The mood changes as Dance Fusion perform Moon Beam: an evocative piece which conveys the power of the moons influence over the movements of the sea.
The first half closes with a light-hearted retelling of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight. In this presentation the traditional story becomes an eco parable told by Merlin. By the end, Sir Gawain is transformed from heavy metal rocker to fully fledged eco warrior. There are several excellent comedy performances here from Merlin and assorted citizens of Camelot.
Planet Go Boom is a largely improvisational piece from one of OYT’s 10-13 groups. More comic talent is on show as council officials deal with the problem of aliens setting up home on a site that the council has earmarked for landfill.
The show closes with The Water of Life from Platypus Theatre – an over 20’s group. This is presented as a folk tale of a poor villager who is sent by a foolish king to find the water of life. In an echo of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, the quest serves to open the eyes of the water-rich to the water poverty that lurks beyond the palace walls.
In the middle of all this is Walking on Eggshells from a group of year 10 pupils from the Warriner School. Although unconnected to the evening’s ecological theme, the producers have clearly taken the view this piece of drama, previously only seen in schools, deserves a wider audience. This is a powerful drama about the impact of parental separation on the lives of young people. The acute emotional pain and sense of aloneness that can be experienced by those who find themselves in this situation were vividly portrayed. I hesitate to use the word “good” about this piece: better to say that it is an outstanding and, above all, truthful piece of drama that has been used to good effect. The teenage actors not only present this drama in schools, but also work with the young people to whom it gives a voice. The producers were right: it does deserve a wider audience.