Young, talented and out for your money

9th August 1996 at 01:00
Kay Smith joins the cast of Last Gasp Youth Theatre in the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe.

The ever growing Edinburgh Festival Fringe, now in its 50th year, continues to offer an open door to youth groups and Last Gasp Youth Theatre has been hard at it in Arbroath since Easter creating, rehearsing and finding the cash to take Crossing the Border.

The first task in a soft, rather than brave, hearted account of a Scots and English family caught up in the events surrounding Bannockburn, was to devise an outline script. This was undertaken by Jacquie Skelton and Sandy Reid, a community education and arts worker respectively, who run Last Gasp in their own time, and Ross Millar, an 18-year-old cast member. Ross Ramsey, aged 13, worked on the score.

But no amount of creative activity will come to anything if a self-funded company cannot meet the considerable expense of staging a Fringe performance. An entry in the official brochure and six afternoon slots in a city centre venue have set Last Gasp back Pounds 600.

No matter. A multi-talented team of 25, aged 13-18, have doubled their roles by taking on publicity and fund-raising as well as acting or dancing. On stage, Arbroath Academy pupils Paul Gammie, aged 15, and Neil Watson, aged 14, war against each other from the Scots and English camps. Offstage they have worked closely in search of sponsorship.

Slipping in the names of sponsors, as any professional fund-raiser would, Paul says: "We got money from the Post Office, the local Round Table and the Lady Victuallers."

But more was needed, including a daily bus to Edinburgh and back during the week-long run. So began jumble and car boot sales, street theatre events, an all-night rehearsal and a mobile mannequin service for local shop windows.

With the show now almost on the road, audiences can expect to see an exploration of timeless issues of teenage love, family tensions, violence and xenophobia. Ross Ramsey explains: "Hopefully the most patriotic Scot in the audience will see the point of view of the most patriotic Englishman in the audience, and vice versa."

Last Gasp was formed three years ago. As Sandy Reid recalls: "I had a rush of blood to my head and put an advert in the local paper. We were mobbed when it came to enrolment time." Saturday morning workshops led to local performances and the Fringe will present a new challenge.

Paul Gammie is undaunted. "No matter how small the audience, we will go on and do our best every single day, just like the professionals."

Crossing the Border is at the Grassmarket from August 12-17.

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