Loved every minute

Kevin Berry

Two and a half weeks of effort, two quite thrilling performances, tons of thundering applause and hardly a dry eye in the house. Everyone connected with Watermark, a new musical shown at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, must now be convinced that anything is indeed possible.

Sixty teenagers were on stage, 40 from the Made in Sheffield Theatre Company and 20 from Northern Ireland, all of them members of the Rainbow Factory, a Belfast performing arts group. The Factory has an admirable policy of admitting any youngsters who want to join regardless of talent and ability. It's link with Sheffield, established by a hopeful letter from Belfast, looks set to strengthen.

At the start they had just three songs, a rough story line and six stage boxes. Their work was put together in improvisation workshops and the sessions soon built trust and respect, factors readily appreciated by everyone.

Daniel Oldham, from Sheffield, said: "We had to talk. A lot of people told some very personal stuff - but there was trust and we got to know each other better. There were a lot of emotional bits but it just made you feel secure. Even though you'd shared something everybody else had as well. You knew that you wouldn't tell anyone outside the room."

Laura Gray, from Belfast, appreciated being directed and encouraged by professional people for the first time and the hefty boost to her confidence from taking part. Perhaps the confidence factor is something adults tend to take for granted, but Laura knew that once back in school her work would benefit and she would never again fear being singled out by a teacher.

Watermark is a play about love, loosely based on La Traviata, and workshop sessions examining the nature and strength of love had been quite illuminating. Laura again: "We played this game called 'I love you', turning round to the next person and saying it in a different way every time - I love you as a friend, or, I really love, and so on."

The main story concerns a young man in love with a young woman who has lived a life of promiscuity, drink and drugs. Eventually she dies - but nobly, in his arms. Meanwhile, a group of other youngsters begin to set up a band and experience the first hints of innocent love.

Impish Gerard McCabe declared, "You'll love it. When Watermark is shown in a big theatre in London sometime in the future we'll be able to say that we were the first to perform in it."

"We were told that the band had to be stupid and funny. So whenever we [the band] were practising we were playing about and messing about. It was difficult. A lot of people who were really, really sensible had to totally change. This is the first time I've ever been stupid, I've always been serious and sensible and followed the rules."

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Kevin Berry

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