Suffolk Youth Theatre: Metamorphosis, a return to the beginning
For Suffolk Youth Theatre director Michael Platt things have come full circle. The play which launched the Suffolk Youth Theatre in 1995, Metamorphosis by Steven Berkoff, has, quite by chance, become the group’s final production as local government cuts have forced the group to close.
The cuts have also meant that this year’s production has to be staged earlier which has also meant that the New Wolsey is not available and so this year the Suffolk Youth Theatre production is to be staged at the James Hehir studio theatre in the Jerwood DanceHouse on the Ipswich Waterfront.
Metamorphosis is Michael Platt and Pat Whymark’s take on Berkoff’s play which is itself an adaptation of a story by Franz Kafka. It tells the story of a young man Gregor who, one morning, finds himself transformed into a beetle. At first his family are supportive and caring but gradually his condition drives a wedge between himself and the world at large. He finds, over a period of time, that, as his belongings are gradually removed from his room, he is becoming dehumanised.
Michael Platt said that the piece has been extensively workshopped during the rehearsal process and the finished play is a reflection of how the cast see this as a parable for the world in which we live.
“For us in rehearsals we have been looking at how the family responds to this situation, how do they cope and also what is this story a metaphor for? There have been a range of answers and ideas from the company many relating to having to cope with someone suffering from a long-standing debilitating illness. It’s interesting how they saw the family moving through a series of stages from sympathy and understanding to almost giving up.
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“We applied those ideas to situations in real life where that might happen, so it been a deep and moving experience for everyone – particularly when we moved the situation out of Kafka’s beetle world into the real world and we have the family saying: ‘That’s not Gregor, if it was he wouldn’t be doing that to us.’
Michael said that it was interesting to compare the youngsters view of the story with that of their predecessors in 1995. “The current cast were keener on taking the story into the real world whereas the previous cast were happier to leave it as a metaphor. This latest production is much more centred on a situation which we all could encounter.”
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Speaking at the DanceHouse before the opening night said that although the choice of show has an undeniable symmetry to it, it has come about completely by accident. “It was entirely unintentional. When we chose the show we didn’t know that this was going to be the final production for The Suffolk Youth Theatre. I chose it because I was looking at who we were likely to have in the cast because we had a lot of our long serving members moving on and I thought it would be a good production to revisit.”
He said that although the productions are quite different in their approach, he made a conscious effort not to repeat the look of the original production.
“The look and the feel of it came very much from the workshop process with the company, from the fact that I knew we were having to come in here, which gives the production a different feel. The Wolsey has the traditional theatre feel whereas the DanceHouse studio has a more flexible feel to it. Also the last time we did the show we didn’t have the services of Pat Whymark, so the action is now punctuated by Pat’s songs which gives the show a completely different dimension.”
He said that theatre has changed a great deal over the years and one of the roles of the Suffolk Youth Theatre was to offer those who were thinking of going into the acting profession a taste of all the different skills that are now required. “But, equally it is also there for people who want to do just the summer school or the Saturday workshops to build friendships, learning presentation skills or just enjoying drama as a hobby.”
Michael said that for him, movement lies at the heart of the character and of the performance of the play. How a character stands and moves helps define who they are and their relationship to one another. Movement is something that characterises his productions, giving the shows atmosphere – as with his distinctive take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Michael said that her has been very proud of the young actors who have created the various productions over the last 16 years and although this is the last annual production, the weekend workshops and the summer school will continue at least for the short-term.
The Suffolk Youth Theatre’s production of Metamorphosis by Steven Berkoff and interpreted by Michael Platt and Pat Whymark is at the Jerwood DanceHouse from March 30 to April 2. Tickets can be booked at www.danceast.co.uk or by phoning 01473 295230.