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Watermill Senior Youth Theatre - Life Lessons

26th to 29th March 2014.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A school inspector calls

Beth Flintoff's sparkling farce gets full marks for the Watermill youth group

Life Lessons, at the Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, March 26 to Saturday, March 29

Beth Flintoff has written a sparkling, witty play, Life Lessons, which she also astutely directed for the Watermill's Senior Youth Theatre. It's a sharply-observed expose of life in a private school, the fictional Ackland College, and draws on some of her own experiences of a girls' boarding school.

It is set in the oak-panelled school office, beautifully realised by designer Libby Todd. On the very last day of term chaos reigns, with concerts and a production about to go ahead in the evening and nothing going to plan.

Moreover, all is not well in the dorms. Maddy (Bella Atkins-Kendall) has been asleep for 17 hours, despite her best friend Laura's attempt to wake her - a beautiful interpretation of the perfect academic swot by Olivia Snell - as the deadline for submitting an essay to achieve a scholarship looms.

She is aided by the cool, streetwise Anna, a totally believable portrayal by Rebecca Chandler, who is hoping to make some money by selling drugs.

Back in the office the Head, strongly played by Ben Stillman, is hoping that the day will go smoothly, not realising that the whole school is about to go into meltdown. His dancing to one of Beyonce's hits was hilarious.

Eloise Reayer was absolutely splendid as the sophisticated personal assistant, managing the administration of the college with super efficiency. She was thwarted by her young, frivolous assistant Rachel (Elizabeth Miller) who hadn't opened the post for the past few days, so the school was unaware of the imminent visit of the school's inspector, perfectly captured by Jade Wallin.

There are some wonderful stereotypical characters: Albie Embelton played the ex-actor drama teacher, training his protege, the young Matthew (Joshua Hearn), to perform the Macbeth dagger speech, knowing full well he can do it better.

Sophie Steel-Childe was the eccentric maths teacher who couldn't quite reach the top of the whiteboard and Lauren Manton was magnifique as the French teacher, complete with red beret and mock accent.

The second act gathered more momentum and pace and developed into a madcap farce that had the audience hooting with laughter.

When Eugene the snake died, Jo (Nick Harris) wanted to make an official complaint to the governors as the students protested.

Laura's father (Sean Dunnett) was mistaken for the inspector, with hilarious results, and the real one makes some startling revelations.

There was excellent support from a myriad of youngsters as pupils, too many to mention by name and they also played musical instruments as part of the band.

Inventively lit by Nick Fliritoff with sound design by Neil Starke, this was a cleverly staged production. All tremendous fun and played with total commitment from this young talented cast of 26, who were obviously enjoying themselves. It fully deserved the enthusiastic applause from the audience. Gratulatio!