One of the strengths of the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company during the last half-century has been its ongoing commitment to providing quality drama education and performance opportunities for generations of children from Edinburgh and beyond. This latest production from the Lyceum Youth Theatre is a valiant attempt to both celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and also showcase the talents of its current youthful participants.
Among the spooky onesies, flashing lights and malicious-looking Victorian ghosts, there are clearly some genuinely talented young adult actors within the company.
Given that the Lyceum theatre, like most 19th century venues, is said to be haunted – by the ghost of its first leading lady, and also some shadowy figure reported within the lighting rig high above the stage – it’s probably inevitable that energetic young minds – provided with all of the 19th century theatre building as their stage – would be inspired to create a Penny Dreadful-esque parade of white-faced, hollow-eyed Victoriana and supernatural goings on.
As a piece of theatre, Hidden is literally meandering and, at first, seemingly piecemeal; the audience are led up and down through the warren of the building’s rooms, corridors and stairwells to various “set pieces” located within dressing rooms, on and beneath the stage, and in the now un-used upper circle high above the stalls. While some of the younger cast-members had only to stand still and expressionless while looking spooky in white makeup, others provided heart-felt performances with real power. Among the spooky onesies, flashing lights and malicious-looking Victorian ghosts, there are clearly some genuinely talented young adult actors within the company.
Admittedly, there were some problems of access – as there are with any promenade performances; while the final climb, from street level all the way to the upper circle was deliberately stopped on each flight – if only to provide older audience members with an opportunity to get their breath back – the physical dimensions of the stairwell along with a relative lack of coordination among our nominal guides, meant that only those at the front of the queue were in a position to then see what was going on up ahead. Stragglers had to do with just what they heard.
The ongoing importance of the Lyceum Youth Company to the theatre’s main operation can be clearly seen in the involvement, in Hidden, of the Lyceum’s soon-to-depart Artistic Director Mark Thomson, Christie O’Carroll (formerly of the Lyceum, now Associate Director at Reading Rep), and award-winning director Amanda Gaughan. Working with the young theatre company, they provided a somewhat more atmospheric tour of the Lyceum than that available during the annual “Doors Open” weekend; a reminder, if nothing else, of how there are stories to be told both on and off the stage.