For most of us, our early teens are a time of confusion and naivety. They're years filled with rebellion and blissful ignorance. However, Live Theatre's Turning Pages – a compilation of six short plays written by playwrights aged between 13 and 15 – showed that youth doesn't necessarily mean immaturity.
The project was a collaboration between Newcastle's Live Theatre and two North East schools: Redhouse Academy in Sunderland and Furrowfield School in Gateshead. It was also part of Live's Write Stuff programme, which offers young writers the chance to work with some of the region's best playwrights and explore the issues that affect their lives. With scripts that focused on serious or complicated topics such as cancer, death and growing old, they created performances that evoked laughs, cheers and telltale sniffles from the audience who, perhaps, hadn't prepared themselves for such an emotion-filled evening.
The first play, Memories Of The Sea, told a particularly heartwarming tale that spanned three generations. A young man, feeling underwhelmed by the sheltered life he'd led so far, planned to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and join the armed forces, despite the pleas of his poorly grandmother and overprotective mother. It was a play that willed you to reflect upon your own life and asked, 'Is there more out there for you?'
Scary House soon followed and, starring Chris O'Connell from the much-acclaimed Wet House, brought a welcome sense of frivolity to the stage. A young boy, following a dare from his friends, entered a supposedly abandoned house, only to be greeted by its occupant: a murderous clown. The small cast gave the most animated performance of the night, keeping the audience engaged and laughing throughout. Although, this understandably changed with the third play of the series.
Could It Be A Tuna focused on the life of a young boy with terminal cancer, with the script paying particular attention to his mother's slow but definite spiral into madness. Left by her husband and starved of attention, she's lost sight of what's truly important: her dying son. It was a chilling play that highlighted how loneliness in the face of adversity can affect us –and it's certainly not a pretty picture.
While all of the productions had been fantastic up to this point, the fourth, Soulless and Goalless, was arguably the best of the night. Well-designed lighting, effects and a whole lot of make-up were used to create a surprisingly believable story about a doll that came to life. Young actresses Natalie Jamieson and Leanne Golightly also gave standout performances, providing a lot of the night's highlights.
The penultimate production, Doctor Death, took inspiration from The Walking Dead. A building site worker, unfulfilled by his job, takes to drugging, kidnapping and experimenting on his supervisors. It was a gripping play that dropped small hints along the way, successfully keeping the audience wondering well into the next interval.
The last play of the night was Never Never Land, which expectedly focused on the topic of growing older. Set in the future, it showed how striving for perfection could ruin the human race. Of course, remaining young forever would be nice, but it'd come at a price. As we grow, learn and mature, the world becomes a better place and, luckily, Never Never Land – along with the rest of the Turning Pages bill – ensured that the audience left Live Theatre knowing more about life than when they first arrived.