Debut by new Newbury youth ensemble includes actors from specialist access groups
COMING soon, for the first time, The Watermill Youth Ensemble will be made up of young people aged 11+ who take part in one of the theatre’s regular weekly groups, including participants from their specialist access groups for young people who are home educated, have autism, have added complications in their lives or are deaf or have a hearing impairment.
This company of actors will come together and tell a unique and inspiring story.
The Watermill has a reputation for producing high-quality youth theatre productions that are enthralling and entertaining. This spring they welcome their newly-created Youth Ensemble in a new adaptation of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s novel The Girl of Ink and Stars, adapted by Becca Chadder.
Inspired by her cartographer father, Isabella longs to follow in his footsteps and explore her island home of Joya. But when her best friend goes missing, her dreams of adventure come true sooner than she thinks. She must lead the search party into the dangerous Forgotten Territories before it’s too late...
The Girl of Ink and Stars is directed by The Watermill outreach director Heidi Bird, who said: “We are thrilled to introduce our newly-formed Youth Ensemble who have come together to tell this gripping and unique tale.
“Our brilliant cast is made up of young people aged 11+ who take part in one of The Watermill’s regular weekly groups. I am incredibly touched and proud to see how these young people have rehearsed with such energy, humour and kindness to create this magical tale – we can’t wait to share the adventure with audiences!”
There will be audio described and British Sign Language integrated performances during the run. The Watermill has been pioneering ways to bring British Sign Language on stage. The sign integrated performance of The Girl of Ink and Stars will not only include a mix of hearing and deaf signers, but a mix of adults and young people.
Heidi Bird explains: “We run a drama group specifically for deaf young people and it’s important that our deaf young people have the option to act in our Youth Ensemble productions. Additionally, two deaf young actors have chosen to take on the challenge of also performing sections in BSL for the sign integrated show.”
“We’ve had the very good fortune of working with a fantastic associate director on this production, Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford. Mary-Jayne is deaf herself and has a wealth of experience in directing and performance BSL. Our young sign performers have been able to work with Mary-Jayne throughout rehearsals, giving them loads of time to develop and learn.”
One young performer explained: “It’s really exciting to know that my deaf friends will come and watch me and know exactly what’s going on because of me.”
The Outreach team are also mentoring two hearing young people in the cast to create an audio described performance, painting a picture of what’s happening on stage for audiences who are blind or partially sighted. Taking one act each and working with The Watermill’s in-house audio describer, the young people are writing their own description scripts to broadcast as a live narration via a personal headset.
One young audio describer explained: “It’s weird but fun to think of the show from a totally different side. I’m loving having to work out how to say everything in the gaps between everyone talking!”
The Girl of Ink and Stars runs from today (Thursday) to Saturday, with a BSL integrated performance on Saturday at 2.30pm and an audio described performance on at 7.30pm.