Talented Norwich youngsters tackle explosive play Extremism
- Credit: Archant
Topical themes come into sharp focus in the classroom in a new play being performed in Norwich and the cast may even get the chance to take it to the National Theatre.
Picture the scene. Uprooted tables and chairs, scattered school-bags and some shell-shocked pupils. Their classmate Jamal has just been taken away by the police which forces a group of young students to assess their beliefs, concerns and prejudices.
That is the start of an explosive play Extremism which is being presented by the Norwich Theatre Royal Youth Company at the theatre's Stage Two building from March 2-4.
And it is being staged as part of the National Theatre Connections scheme which gives young people the chance to perform new writing and possibly take their productions to the National Theatre stage itself.
Heather Kelly, who plays Rachel, said Extremism plays into a lot of topical themes and concerns that people have at the moment. She said: 'I think it i quite scary because of everything that is happening in America and with a lot of the protests going on. We are so fearful of the future and what is going to happen.
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'This play is about a group of teenagers in a room who don't know what to do so they lash out. It is what happens on social media when people lash out about things they don't have the full knowledge of. They are actually just reaching out.'
Annabella King says her character is very much at the centre of the play. She explained: 'Suhayla believes very strongly in being a Muslim and that is what causes all the tension between the pupils. There is this real foundation of fear which opens the play.'
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Fellow cast member Matthew Doswell plays Darren who finds himself at war with Suhayla. He said: 'I play a very extreme character with a very strong personality. There are lots like that in Extremism which fits into what the play is about. One of Darren's quote is 'not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.' I actually found that quote from someone on my Twitter feed. The sort of issues Extremism tackles are becoming more and more relevant at the moment with things like the reactions Donald Trump is getting.'
As well as the strong themes and issues, the cast have had to learn some new skills while building on their characters. Heather Kelly said: 'We did a stage combat class and that was really helpful giving us safe tips and ideas of how to make it look realistic.'
And Isaac Byram, who plays Star Trek-loving Samuel, faced an additional challenge. He said: 'He is a bit of an outcast in the sense that he speaks Klingon. It is a language used in his favourite TV show and he incorporates it into his character in the sense he develops himself through emotional fear. The backstory I created for him was that he was bullied a lot and the only way he could express himself is through Klingon because it is quite a harsh language. You say lovely things but it sounds quite threatening.
'I did relate to my character. At high school, I wasn't the most popular kid and I am naturally quite nerdy anyway. The whole thing about learning Klingon was a challenge because I kept on finding I was trying to pronounce the English in the words. I had to completely erase my memory of what I knew of English and think about how the new language would be spoken. YouTube helped a lot but the Klingon is now rolling off the tongue pretty easily.'
So get ready for an explosive classroom cocktail of emotion, conflict and prejudice brought to the stage by a group of young actors keen to show the issues affecting them in day-to-day life and with the possibility of taking this thought-provoking production to London.
• Extremism, Stage Two, Norwich Theatre Royal, March 2-4, 8pm, £10 (£8.50 cons), 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk