Youth theatre shines

The Miracle; by Liz Coghlan; New Wolsey Youth Theatre (until Thursday)Go looking for new plays for young people to stage and the works commissioned for the National Theatre's Shell Connections programme is a good place to start.

The Miracle; by Liz Coughlan; New Wolsey Youth Theatre,

Go looking for new plays for young people to stage and the works commissioned for the National Theatre's Shell Connections programme is a good place to start. It's now in its twelfth season and Lin Coughlan's play The Miracle commissioned for last year's Shell Connections fits the bill perfectly for New Wolsey Youth Theatre.

Its not just that it's written take a cast of well over a score (and a dog), it has a range of colourful characters - good, bad, sad and misunderstood, there's ironic and often funny social observation and a carefully developed and wondrous tale of contemporary miracle working.

It's all come about, with uncanny echoes of recent events, during a time of flooding. A thirteen year girl, Veronica or Ron (played with an affecting simplicity by a similarly aged Charlotte Frost) finds, when the waters have subsided, that a statue of St Antony has ended up in her room. For whatever reason, and to the disbelief and disapproval of her elders, she seems then to develop special healing powers. With the encouragement of her best friend Zelda, she begins to help people with advice and real comfort in her dysfunctional local community,


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Zelda (an outstanding performance by Tolia Wiltz) is the narrator and commentator. She introduces us to a range of people and their problems - the dyslexic boy whom she treats by applying calmness, the compulsive joyrider, and, most seriously damaged, the traumatised 19 year-old soldier just back from Iraq.

We see the town's reaction to the gifted youngster. There's jealously, resentment and bullying from the town slappers, scornful suppression by the school headteacher, but frequently approval from many parts of a community in dire near of something worthwhile to cling to, whether or not they are miracles.

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Essentially the modest youngster comes up with, not the spiritual, but the caring answer, the whole making for a perceptive modern parable.

Alison Cartledge's clever set gives varied acting areas and also the sense of a townscape. Director Susanna Bishop keeps things moving with well orchestrated group scenes.

This is a play, which needs and gets enthusiastic ensemble performances. It's good to see young talent being given an opportunity chance in professional surroundings.

I can't ever remember a live and well-behaved dog taking such a leading onstage role. Gravel, for so he's named, even took a curtain call.

Ivan Howlett

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