Part of the Community

Published: 6th June 2019

I had no rhyme or reason to believe Icon Theatre were different from any other theatre company present in the Medway Area. Situated in the not-so-cosy area next to the Chatham high street, I was introduced to the warm and inviting persona of Amy Riley and her Youth Theatre group at the Brook theatre (a building at which, until that point, I had never even heard of) and the idea of being part of a collective company.

“£1 pound a week!” I though to myself as I was slowly beckoned into the new-found fragrance of meaningful acting at high-standards with low costs accompanying it. Little did I know, that becoming a piece of this optimistic puzzle would soon change my view on the arts forever.

Before finding ICON Theatre, my initial experiences of drama had been few and far between. I was thinking of taking GCSE Drama as an option at my Secondary School, but besides that, I had never been given a true opportunity to express myself within the performing arts. I had, at one point, been part of another theatre group in Chatham, however, this was short-lived, and the company gave me a distasteful stance of acting and what it can be used to achieve.

Cementing myself to the trusted and well-managed company brought me many opportunities which I will cherish throughout my life-time. I began by accompanying the company each week and taking part in their workshops, with each new week bringing about a different perspective to the arts. My favourite workshops so far have been those that look at practitioners, famous actors and directors who created their own forms of theatre, such as the blood-curdling Theatre of Cruelty and the revolutionary audience-engaged Theatre of the Oppressed, both developed by Antonin Artaud and Augusto Boal respectively. As well as this, I discovered my love for puppetry with a term fixated entirely on the process of it and its forms, including traditional hand-held puppets which can require one or two puppeteers, but also lesser-taught formats, such as coat and shadow puppetry.

I was also later introduced to the “Play in a week” projects, which (as you may have guessed) saw us create our own performances over a five-day period based upon a theme, concept or narrative – all completely directed and driven by myself and the other participants. For example, there was the “Welcome to the Circus” show, which saw to explore the illusive Dark Web through a twisted circus backdrop, and the more recent “The Social”, a scene by scene re-telling of conventional stories from social media and the impact it has on teenagers, ending with an extended physical theatre sequence (theatre told by movement, not words).

One of the biggest productions I was given access to was Nancy Hirst’s “Silk of 1000 Spiders”, a multi-stranded performance by the director of the ICON company that tells the tales of those who had immigrated to live and work around the Luton area, the roles they acquired, and the hardships they faced while travelling to Britain. I enjoyed working with the Youth theatre on creating our scene in it known as “Playground”, because I was opened up to the reality of how exciting it was to perform in front of a live audience comprised of members of the public and how working outdoors varied from being inside a theatre – mostly due to the weather.

ICON’s Youth Theatre has greatly opened my eyes to the wonders of working within the theatrical Arts and has allowed me to form many friendships along the way. Overall, I would say that I am much more than satisfied with joining the Youth Theatre group at ICON group, as it has given me the passion and drive I need to pursue Drama as a GCSE and to (hopefully) pursue the Arts as a career someday.

Will

ICON Youth Theatre Participant and all-round enthusiast of the Performing Arts.