Every year the Festival Theatre stage is handed over to our award-winning Chichester Festival Youth Theatre for the Christmas production. This year’s production of Sleeping Beauty is directed by Lucy Betts, who was herself a member of CFYT from the age of 7 until she was 20. The adaptation of the original fairytale that the youth theatre are tackling for this year's festive production was written by Rufus Norris, now Artistic Director of the National Theatre, who also started out his career as a member of his local Youth Theatre.
We caught up with Lucy to find out a little more about the production, which opens on 15 December, and about the importance of youth theatres to children up and down the country.
How did you come to be involved in this production and how has the process been so far?
I had a call in February from CFT saying there was an availability for a director. I was so lucky in that it’s a wonderful script and very much my style – it’s completely bonkers!
It's a long process, we began rehearsals in September, but it's just how it works with Youth Theatre because of school and college; and actually for the young people it's great because it gives them more time for ideas, blocking and creative things to settle in the mind. It's also quite challenging because you might do something in September and not revisit it for a few weeks. But what's amazing is they are so keen and confident; they know exactly what they are doing.
What are the CFYT company like?
They are just the most incredibly focused, creative and passionate young people. They work really hard, they are so committed to what they do and so aware of how lucky they are to have this opportunity – not only to be in the show in the first place, but to be in a show at Chichester Festival Theatre and they don’t take it for granted.
What makes this version of Sleeping Beauty special?
It’s just nuts, I love it! It’s based on the original French fairy tale so there are elements that are the same: there’s Beauty who is asleep, there’s a prince who kisses her to wake her up; but there are twists and turns along the way, so it’s not always what you expect. It really keeps the audience on their toes. What’s lovely is that because it’s so silly and funny, the poignant moments really strike a chord.
What can we expect from the costumes and set?
I’m so lucky to be working with Simon Higlett and Ryan Dawson Laight; they are so creative. They totally get what I’m trying to do with the play; it’s as though they’ve reached into my head and taken the images out and made them better. The set is totally different to any Youth Theatre set we’ve ever had – there are a few surprises! The same with the costumes; Ryan is really pushing the it to the limit of the concept we’ve come up with and it’s so inspirational.
Having been a member of CFYT yourself, why do you think it's so important for children and young people to have opportunities to take part in youth theatre?
I was in the Youth Theatre - I joined when I was about 7, and was a member until I was 20. I grew up with it. My best friends are from the Youth Theatre and some of them work at CFT.
Directing the youth theatre I was once a part of is a strange feeling like coming home. Even though the Youth Theatre is huge now and the building has really changed, the ethos is still the same – faith in those young people and expecting amazing things of them, enabling them to be creative.They really believe in what they're doing, they're there to tell stories with like-minded people. It wouldn't be the same show without their creativity, input and ideas, and their willingness to go on this massive journey. For me that's what is really special about Youth Theatre and why it's so important.
Sleeping Beauty runs in the Festival Theatre from 15 - 30 December and tickets are available from £10. Suitable for ages 7+ and there is a relaxed performance on Sunday 30 December for any individuals or families with children on the autism spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, or who simply would feel more comfortable in a relaxed theatre environment.