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Watermill Youth Theatre - Hope Springs

14th to 17th July 2004.

Here is the Newbury Theatre review.

Watermill Youth Theatre can be justly proud of their powerful and frequently harrowing performance of Hope Springs. This was a dark piece of theatre with moments that brought the true horror of repression to the forefront of the action. The cast, all aged from eleven to sixteen, under the direction of Ben Myers all showed great understanding and sympathy for the children they were portraying.

The members of the company had clearly worked hard to make this piece as true to life as possible, and there were some very strong performances. Hope Springs is the story of a group of young people who are held in a correction camp of cruelty and humiliation. Tormented by the principal and her staff, they revolt in a spectacular act of aggression and hatred.

The two-tiered set was small and brought the audience into the action. There was a rippling backdrop of the sea and the stage area was surrounded by black and white pebbles, which later became symbols of tragedy and hope. There were tables and chairs representing a classroom where most of the action took place. Set changes were executed swiftly and with great professionalism. The piece was also complemented by a clever collection of music, notably Robbie Williams’ “Falling Apart”. However, because the set was so small the cleverly choreographed movement pieces occasionally looked cluttered and it was frequently hard to see what was happening on the bottom tier of the stage.

The simple lighting was effective albeit unimaginative and predictable; however any other form of lighting may have detracted from the action occurring on stage.

Perhaps what makes this particular piece of theatre so upsetting is that it is based on true life events – there is an institution in Barbados. It is also not dissimilar to television's “Brat Camp”.

Hope Springs is the story of lost innocence, hatred, suicide and betrayal. It questions us as a society, and puts into question the humanity of “well respected” families. It is indeed a tale of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.


This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Game of consequences

Watermill Youth Theatre: Hope Springs, at The Watermill, from Wednesday, July 14 to Saturday, July 17

In a week when the Government is proposing a ban on parents smacking children, it was disturbing to learn that across 'the pond', in America, parents whose children were out of control were paying up to $40,000 a year to incarcerate their offspring in a 'behaviour modification centre' where staff are permitted to use whatever physical force they feel necessary to control their children.

Moreover, the contract they sign also waives liability for any harm that should befall a child in its care.

Richard Colan's disturbing play Hope Springs explores the consequences of institutionalising a bunch of teenagers whose behaviour needs modifying. Their only crime appears to be that of being, well, teenagers.
In a simple white box set with images of waves at the back we are introduced to Hope Springs, an island only accessible by boat and to the staff and pupils of this correctional centre with a severely strict regime that is quite frightening.

In control of this glossily advertised institution is the hard-edged principal (Charlotte Smith) not someone you would like to cross unless you want to end up in punishment.

The regime cannot continue and a rebellion is planned and executed by the ringleaders, convincingly played by Josie Glover and Harriet Collins, who take over the facility, locking the staff in the basement.

Their plot is somewhat thwarted by an unexpected visit from the education inspector (Ailsa McCaughrean) and her assistant (William Richardson) who slowly discover the horrors of the kids' revenge on the principal and the individual stories of the inmates and their treatment.

Not all could cope with the strict regime and Lucy Carmichael was particularly moving as the young child whose only escape from this suffering was to commit suicide by drowning.

This was very much an ensemble piece with some fine acting from a committed cast. Ben Myers' assured direction created a sinister controlled environment. It is his last production with the Youth Theatre and he should certainly be pleased with the results, as were the audience.