Life Ain’t No Musical – Cardboard Citizens/ACT NOW – Review


I’ve said previously that theatre can be so much more than just entertainment. I love a feel good musical as much as the next person, but likewise, I know that theatre can have a transformational effect. Often as an actor/director this occurs during the process of getting the play/production together. Also as an audience member sometimes a theatrical piece can just blow you away and cause a paradigm shift in consciousness to occur. When it happens to both the cast and audience it’s a very special event.

I was privileged to be part of such an event on Friday night.

ACT NOW is the youth theatre project run by the amazing Cardboard Citizens.  I came across their work whilst studying Augusto Boal for college. It truly is a very special work and I commend it to you.

After the Arts Council cuts that were announced earlier this year, I blogged about how this had inspired me to support a few theatrical companies and projects. Cardboard Citizens was one I’ve chosen to support.

This was my first chance to go and see some of their work. I’m glad I did.

Only 4 weeks ago, ACT NOW brought these 12 young people with experience of homelessness, who had never worked with each other before or done anything like this before together. They had four weeks to create this work. If I could bring such a powerful piece of theatre to fruition in just four weeks I’d be extremely pleased. It’s a credit to them. I know some professionals who’d not have the guts to take up this challenge of producing a musical in 4 weeks!

Director Tony McBride is to be congratulated for directing this group and channeling the talent they have. Also appreciation must go to Arun Ghosh for his musical direction and composition. His enthusiasm on stage brought a smile to my face.

The musical focused on the “lessons of life” these young people had learnt so far. I was touched by the honesty of the young people as they chose to tell us of the highs and lows of their lives so far. There were moments of laughter, aswell as more poignant and serious lessons. Violence, heartache, fear, confusion were all visibly brought to us.

The poetry and script these young people had devised had some really beautiful and clever lines throughout, “Home is not my home”, “Love is heavy joy”, “What speed is happiness”, “My pen is to the paper”, “If he wasn’t dead, he’d have ended up inside”, are a few of the gems I managed to jot down.

I was especially pleased they used an uncomfortable length of silence in the production. Silence is a powerful theatrical device, seldom used, as it’s REALLY hard to be on stage and do/say nothing. These young people could teach some more seasoned theatrical types a thing or two about how to “do” silence!

The production led us through depths of despair, but took us to a hopeful conclusion, as the balloons rose to fly away, we saw their hopes for the future rise too.

As this was the last night, the audience were invited to join the director and cast, for their awards after the show. It was genuinely moving to see each member being awarded for their hard work and contribution. There were tears and laughter.

These young people (and the hundreds of  others who are helped by this project each year), have been given a chance to impact their own lives and ours too. The whole group deserves the biggest round of applause.

The project still has to raise £40,000 by March 2012, please go to their website and give as generously as you can. This isn’t just about theatre, it’s about helping young people gain qualifications, work placements and jobs. For them to be engaged with support services from mental health to housing. In short transformation, but then actually that’s what theatre’s all about isn’t it?


4 thoughts on “Life Ain’t No Musical – Cardboard Citizens/ACT NOW – Review

  1. Pingback: Cardboard Citizens « Theatre Thoughts Blog

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  4. Pingback: Life Ain’t No Musical – The Remix | Theatre Thoughts Blog

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