Brighton Fringe 2015
This play with music is a high school love story, capturing the feelings and thoughts of young people as they collectively voice their concerns about the pressures placed on them in education. And what unites us all is our corridors and chairs, our text books and our teachers. We are the class of 2015 and they say this is the most important year of our lives so far. But don’t worry; soon it’ll all be passed.
Next Generation Youth Theatre present an ensemble cast who bring us The Butterfly Catcher – a moving, brazenly direct piece of theatre that pays homage to agitprop and adds in some romance and highly hummable tunes, all delivered with 110% commitment and focus by the impressive cast.
A coming of age love story weaves around a polemic on the negative impacts of the "exam culture". When we are over-tested, we cannot truly test ourselves. This is youth theatre at its very best. The show rarely misses a beat and every performer here has a future in theatre and performance in their grasp.
The director has lit a fire under this cast and they flare up with commitment and focus and then blaze forth with passion and community.
Sometimes the blaze is too bright and the inferno threatens to drown the clarity. The singing, simply done without much complexity in terms of harmony creates a single chorus voice that narrates, describes, berates and protests. Tender moments of tears and love and time so easily lost to the past; whole episodes of frustration and fury are played out and presented by a social-media immersed generation who have things to say about the way they are being schooled. We are shown the interior of the raw and developing chrysalis even as the System views and judges, tests and controls a superficial exterior view of a seemingly unmoving cocoon. Can the butterfly emerge? Only if it is left alone and allowed to! A strong theme, well handled, articulated and rooted in passion for the messages offered.
So, a love story lies at the heart of a message piece about how testing and exams can distract the young from waking up to the world and opening their unique wings. The pragmatism of adults presses too hard upon the gentle development of youth and those wings may never properly open. We are shown school life through physical theatre, drama, monologue, chorus and song.
It is, perhaps, ironic that this company seeks reviews for this particular piece. Here we are, like examiners, passing judgment, assessing work.
Yet these performers have tested themselves and – I hope – feel confident to give themselves an A+. What I can do as a reviewer of professional level theatre is to point out that this youth theatre company of non-full-time actors have passed the test of professionalism and made it into one of our recommended categories. This is a category of recommending to audiences that they pay good money to see fine work. Next Generation Youth Theatre should feel proud to have produced work that stands beside the professionals with ease. Very well done indeed to all involved.