Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Shhh! There's a new play on at Lancaster Library!

Amy Jo Clough, who plays Penny
in Ssh! at Lancaster Library
Today sees Shhh! opening in Lancaster - "a play about a library, performed at the library". Tom Bramhall reports...

Put together by The Dukes’ Senior Youth Theatre, Shhh! sets its drama around Penny, a librarian who - amongst other things draws tattoos on her arm with biro pens, knows the location of every book in the building and, with 362 unfinished songs under her belt, is well prepared for an X-Factor appearance that she is ‘absolutely definitively’ going to win!

Billed as a play about luck, love, friendship, Shhh! is peppered with references to the local area. It’s also the first of the Senior Youth Theatre’s productions to take place outside of their DT3 base on Moor Lane.

In the lead-up to its run at Lanacaster Library (25th- 28th January), I spoke to directors Kriss Foster and Mary Sharples about a play that's steeped in local culture and community.

Tom Bramhall: Where and when did the ideas for Shhh! come together?

Kriss: The idea came about a year ago. We were interested in doing a site specific piece in Lancaster with the Senior Youth Theatre. We thought about spaces that would be great for theatre in Lancaster and when we thought of the library we thought it would be great. The thought of a play about Lancaster, set in Lancaster and performed in the library space was one that excited me greatly.

Tom: Who’s involved?

Kriss: There’s myself, Mary and The Dukes Senior Youth Theatre from DT3 at the Dukes. We devised the characters with last years group and put the script together over Summer. This years group worked on the piece and added new scenes of their own. As a collaborative, devising process I think it’s been a great success.

Tom: How are you finding the library as a performance space?

Kriss: Excellent, the library are so supportive and encouraging and have made us so welcome in their space. It’s been great rehearsing in the library and seeing how many things go on. Theatre feels like a natural progression, especially after the success of the Get it Loud in Libraries project.

Tom: What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of getting the play together?

Mary: There have been so many enjoyable moments in creating the piece. When we started researching the piece in May it was great visiting the library and talking to people about how they use the space and then developing characters from their answers. Another enjoyable aspect of the process has been seeing the group get involved with all aspects of the piece, for example, devising and adding extra scenes, choreographing pieces of movement and learning musical instruments.

Tom: Have you any advice for people wanting to get involved with local arts?

Kriss: My advice would be to do it. If you have an idea share it and they’ll be a ton of people who want to share and help. Lancaster is full of talented and creative people that are happy to share in and support creative projects. I’ve found organisations in Lancaster also to be very supportive and willing to listen to and support many varied projects.

Tom: Will there be original music?

Kriss: Yes, there will. The group have all been encouraged to learn a new musical instrument to perform a song that the group worked on together. There is percussion, singing and a great variety of instruments!

Tom: Are fame, fortune and leaving Lancaster keys to happiness?

Mary: Perhaps fame and fortune are the keys to happiness but leaving Lancaster definitely isn’t. With so many exciting creative things happening at places like the Dukes and the library and with young people so enthusiastic and inventive as our group, how would anyone not be happy in Lancaster?

Sssh! opens tonight at 7.30pm at Lancaster Library. More information about Shhh! and related projects can be found at The Dukes’ Box Office 01524 598500 or from their website: www.dukes-lancaster.org.

• Tom Bramhall runs with future~pizza (www.futurepizza.blogspot.com)

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