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Voices of youth unlock their experience of pandemic

Stunning production on what Covid means to our 14- to 21-year-olds reopens the Corn Exchange

Unlocked and Unbolted
Unlocked and Unbolted

THE Corn Exchange reopened its doors on Saturday, September 5 with Unlocked and Unbolted, a new piece of theatre about the experiences of young people during lockdown, shared at three sold-out matinee performances for limited capacity, socially distanced audiences, then broadcast as-live via the Corn Exchange website. Written and directed by Bryn Holding, it is based on the thoughts and ideas of 14- to 21-year-olds which were shared during online conversations hosted by the Corn Exchange in July. Young people were asked what this period had meant to them, how they see the world at the moment and what the future looks like to them. Eleven young performers aged 16 to 18 rehearsed via Zoom and in physically distanced rehearsals. Bryn Holding, alongside designer Adrian Gee and movement director Sophie Cottle, conceived the production using social distancing as an artistic device, with staging and direction meaning the performers were always physically apart from each other. Composer and musical director Tamsin Kennard wrote original music, including an anthem based on the conversations. The local community was invited to join The Unlocked Voices and 18 singers took part in online rehearsals and recording. Completing the creative team are lighting designer Joseph Stairs and sound designer Joseff Harris

Unlocked and Unbolted, at the Corn Exchange,
Saturday, September 5, then online


THE Corn Exchange reopened on Saturday with a stunning production of Unlocked and Unbolted written and impressively directed by Bryn Holding. All three performances were sold out, so I watched the live broadcast on the Corn Exchange website, which is still available until September 12 and is highly recommended.

The production was staged in the auditorium with Adrian Gee’s geometrical design of coloured tapes creating imaginative shapes which was skilfully used by the performers and ensured social distancing, which was the artistic device underpinning the play.

Movement director Sophie Cottle’s inventive choreography created a constant changing series of montages as the individual stories were told.

Composer and musical director Tamsin Kennard had written original music for the piece and Joseff Harris’ evocative soundscape also included extracts of comments from politicians, which was a poignant feature.

Completing the creative team was Joseph Stairs, whose dramatic dynamic lighting was stunning.

The performance was the fruition of online conversations with 14- to 21-year-olds on what Covid-19 meant to them followed by rehearsals with 11 young performers aged 16 to 18 on Zoom and physically distanced.

The production is a powerful insight into how they view the world today; their thoughts, hopes and experiences of living through the pandemic.

It is very much a physical ensemble piece with words and actions shared between the cast as they question the effects of the disease and their concerns about schools being closed and what will happen about their exams and how will that affect their futures?

Under normal circumstances parents and teachers would have the answers, but not now, as the reality of the
situation sets in and lockdown takes effect. One actor says: “Even the dogs have had enough, exhausted by constant walks.”

The impressive cast tackle a large agenda of today’s issues with honesty, including Black Lives Matter and the global climate, but are convinced that the Government is more interested in getting the economy up and running again.

They are hoping for a new start, a new tomorrow and peace in an emotive stirring anthem, “we are the people, love will stay the same” that is sung by an 18-strong chorus who were pre-recorded.

This was a thought-provoking production and the company are to be congratulated on their achievement.

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