The concept of YOLO or You Only Live Once for those of you who aren't in the know about these kinds of things, has been a trendy phrase for the past couple of years. A sort of moniker for the idea of living for today and an excuse for young people to do what they want, when they want.
It ended up coming off very much like an end of term assessment, where each unit in a performance course needed to be covered.
This piece of theatre, brought to the Quaker Meeting House by Poot Productions, promised to challenge this idea, with their flyer stating “Actually you only die once... You live every day”.
Based around the death of a friend, this group of young people from the Cabot Learning Federation, a group of academies in and around Bristol, wrote and devised this piece themselves.
The plot starts with what seems to be a funeral scene. With family, friends and loved ones gathered together in a choreographed dance number that was quite simple and then broke off into identifying the different groups and people present. They showed the stunned family, the over dramatic teenagers and the creepy uncle, who was perhaps a step a little too far. The narrative then starts to break off into monologues, physical theatre pieces, dance and music. We return to the central characters a few times throughout and a couple of subplots develop alongside this, dealing with teenage pregnancy and unrequited love.
What's really clever here is how well this young group have worked together to create a slick and polished performance. There was lots of changes to costume and scene, various pieces of music and even live instruments and they seemed to have total control of what was happening and when.
However what let it down for me was it was all just a bit too much. The concept and story were good and the devised pieces of acting were on the whole delivered well. Some of the actors showed real potential. They just didn't need to throw every theatrical element in the book at it. It ended up coming off very much like an end of term assessment, where each unit in a performance course needed to be covered. Some – as I've said – worked well, but others, such as a strange stage combat sequence and a clunky tap routine, were just too much.
It's great to allow young people to express themselves and be creative. But director Sam Bridges needed to perhaps be a little bit cruel to be kind here. Had they scaled it back a little and not been so determined to show every trick in the book, especially when some of the tricks just weren't performed to a great standard, they could have had something a lot stronger. With a little bit – ok, perhaps a big bit – of editing they could have avoided exposing quite so many weaknesses.