Ready for the party

1st November 1996 at 00:00
With 120 invited this will be a big Berkshire wedding. Mainly 11 to 16, the participants represent the combined forces of Newbury's Watermill Youth Theatre and West Berkshire Music Centre.

The Wedding Party will take place at Newbury's revamped arts centre, the Corn Exchange.

Writer David Sulkin and composer Karen Wimhurst have created a wedding between two tribes, one semi-industrial, the other related to the world of natural colours and flowers - backgrounds reflected in the characters' names. If these also have a Russian tinge - Siri, Krasno, Slivki - it's because the Russia-Chechnya conflict lies behind the story. And to complicate matters, the bride has gone missing; a replacement must be found.

This may sound like a comic plot trying to have serious overtones, but midway through rehearsals the serious side predominates. One aim says director Trevelyan Wright is to extend young people's ideas of music theatre. This is being done through mixing a range of styles; the final act starts in a realistic way then moves towards non-realism. It also explores ways of combining music and drama. There's a scene exploiting just percussion, while the central of the three sections places a 13-strong string ensemble centre stage accompanied by silent action.

Musical director Nick Beech has skilled players - the string passage has already been played as a separate concert item - but the action offers a new way of working to players used to sitting and being directed. For the actor-singers, the score extends performance range without demanding a fully trained technique.

Rehearsals began with summer holiday workshops. By my visit last month the last act was struggling to take shape. Final polishing comes with intense half-term rehearsals. Then the celebrations commence.

Newbury Corn Exchange, November 7-9. Tickets: Pounds 6 (Pounds 4 concessions) 01635 522733

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