Young people’s festival launch pulls the crowds

Students from youth theatre groups, schools and a college are showcasing their skills in performance arts.

The annual Young People’s Festival is in full swing at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre this week.

Setting the bar high at the opening of the festival last night (June 26), the Pomegranate Youth Theatre wove mime, characterisation, storytelling and song into a packed show.

Proud parents and grandparents were among the 250-strong audience who watched the 84 performers put into practice what they have learned at weekly workshops.

The youngest members brought mime into play in silent movie sketches, depicting burglars and bobbies, dirty tactics at a school sports day, elderly people arriving at a bus stop, difficult customers and stroppy waitresses, with accompanying sound effects provided by young percussionists.

A comical contribution entitled Let Sleeping Dogs Lie focused on teenagers at a Peak District adventure camp, run by irritatingly enthusiastic leaders, and the piece had been cleverly updated since its first airing a few years ago to include an award for best Justin Bieber lookalike!

The most intriguing part of the evening came in a series of sketches entitled Ghost Stories of Chesterfield Canal, in which a character called Jenny Hearn was pushed into the water by bullies and later dragged fishermen to their doom. These spooky stories whetted the appetite for the group’s forthcoming production of Cuckoo, Stories of the Chesterfield Canal.

TV shows milking the nation’s obsession with the supernatural provided much mirth as the performers sent up ratings-grabbing production companies and fame-hungry members of the public in a sketch set in a haunted house, complete with a sinister ghost dressed all in black and crowd-pleasing songs, Thriller and Monster Mash.

A ghost storytelling competition provided the finale of the night, in which the audience were invited to choose between the airy-fairy Chesterfield Pagan Society, the prim and proper Supermarket Undertakers, the classically-trained and toffee-nosed trio from Birdholme Academy of Dramatic Arts (who were my favourites) and the outspoken, bus-bound Residents of Chesterfield Retirement Home.

The entire showcase was one success story after another for the Pomegranate Youth Theatre.

Students from Springwell School, Chesterfield College and Steep Turnpike Youth Theatre take part in the festival tonight (Monday, June 27) at 7pm and productions by Newbold School and Donut Creative Art Studio bring the event to a close tomorrow.

As a warm-up to each night’s main event, students from Chesterfield Studios are singing songs from the shows and modern classics in the bar.

For more on the festival, see the Derbyshire Times, published on Thursday, June 30.