WHAT an absolute treat it was to be in the Wildman Studio at Ilkley Playhouse last week. Young directors, Livy Potter and Elizabeth Rudge assembled a small group of very talented actors to participate in an evening of pieces which gave expression to modern times. In a series of monologues and then in a one act play, ideas about what it is like to be young in the 21st century were explored and demonstrated.

The monologues were performed by Livy Potter, Elsa Tuxworth, Tom Gibbons and Evie Clark. They varied widely in tone and tempo and each looked at a different aspect of modern life. The first, ‘Muswell Hill’ was a scene familiar to most, that of being late, frantic and apologetic whilst at the same time blaming anything or anyone for the folly. Delivered at break-neck speed by Livy, the tone was set for an evening of great entertainment.

The second, Letter to Boddah, performed very sensitively and intriguingly by Tom Gibbons, told of a man trapped on a bus journey whilst all of life was to be seen tantalisingly on the other side of the glass, but was entirely inaccessible and off limits. This actor painted an image so vivid that I can still picture the scenes he created, in both this and his second piece, The Winterling. Completely different in tone and content this was a great showcase of Tom Gibbon’s talent and a joy to behold.

Elsa Tuxworth performed ‘Things I know to be true’ – a touching tale of teenage naivety whilst travelling – and a salutary tale for all lone adventurers. It was impossible not to have sympathy for this misled girl, so endearing was Elsa’s performance. Evie Clark gave the final monologue – another affecting story of a girl thinking about outgrowing her imaginary friend and choosing not to, given with such lively interpretation that it was almost possible to see both characters on stage.

The second half of the evening was given over to a two-handed play, ‘Jess and Joe Forever.’ This utterly charming piece charted the relationship between two children over several years as they came to terms with who and what they were. Jess, (Emily Lloyd), is a rich kid who slums it in a cottage in the countryside during the school holidays before going on her ‘proper’, much more glamorous holiday abroad. Joe (Connor Houlton), is the boy she meets and makes friends with when she hangs out on his farm. Their very different back-grounds is one of the things that separates them but there is somethings else that is an issue for him and as the play progresses we begin to speculate as to what it is. All manner of accusations have been levied and the only person who seems unaffected by them is his devoted pal Jess – herself carrying a range of mental health issues.

The two actors in this play gave performances which were entirely convincing and endearing. Joe is played wonderfully by Connor – he is clearly a troubled soul dealing with many a demon; Jess too has her problems and Emily Lloyd reveals a multi-layered character in a well-crafted portrayal.

There was potential for this play to end in a manner common for teen dramas involving mental health, ie not happily. However, this was a heart-warming tale with lots of positivity to offset the traumas and as it came to an end, with the nature of Joe’s problems finally revealed, we were offered more than a glimmer of hope.

Another great night at Ilkley Playhouse. Bravo all – especially the courageous and determined directors who took a risk – it paid off.

by Becky Carter