The Happy Theory @ The Yard Theatre

Another cohort of Generation Arts’ talented performers come together for their end of year gala performance to showcase their abilities, and as usual, it’s a delight. The company aims to train aspiring actors from marginalised backgrounds for free, and the majority of these performers go on to drama schools. This year’s performance The Happy Theory is devised by the young company themselves, directed by Ali Godfrey, and is a massive burst of energy that has you laughing all the way through.

As school comes to an end, a class of students is debating a question put forward to them by their teacher: can money buy happiness? For some, the answer to this is straightforward, but to others it’s complicated, and for all of them it’s a way to consider their next steps in life. They just need to learn to accept their difference, but that’s easier said than done.

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The piece weaves the stories of each of the characters together neatly, holding your attention throughout. The ensemble is terrific and mesh well together, and in true Generation Arts style, everyone is encouraged to play to their strengths. This allows gems like Helder Fernandes and Robert O’Reilly to shine with their over-the-top comedy that leaves the audience roaring with laughter. The perfectly timed subtle humour of Elena Burciu, who plays the lovable and bumbling teaching assistant Ms Simmons, is also a brilliant addition to the piece.

The most touching relationship is the one between teacher Jada – a strong performance by Tania Nwachukwu – and her younger sister Denise who is scared to leave her house. Adrienne Bailey gives a nuanced performance as Denise, capturing the character’s fears well. The two have a powerful bond on stage that adds warmth to the play. Jay Martin as Ethan, a young student struggling to cope with his mother’s terminal cancer, is also deserving of a mention. His performance is touching and heartfelt, and the final speech he delivers is deeply moving.

Overall Generation Arts have created a piece full of laugh-out-loud humour and emotional scenes, that showcases the talent of their students while celebrating difference. This year’s ensemble is destined to go on and do great things.

Find out more about Genertion Arts. The Happy Theory is at The Yard Theatre until 24th June.

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Half of Me @ Lyric Hammersmith

Created in collaboration between Generation Arts and Tamasha Theatre Company, Half of Me follows a young girl as she discovers the truth about her genetic roots. The play, written by Satinder Chohan, explores the experiences by people born  as a result of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Chohan’s text is intriguing and poetic, and brought to life dynamically by the performers of Generation Arts.

Areia (Erica Kouassi) feels different from her family. On a trip to a museum displaying Greek Antiquities, she is drawn to a stone statue, and is overwhelmed by its power and the feelings it evokes. She collapses, and wakes up with her parents around her, discussing her illness: she has a hole in her heart, a genetic condition. Areia finds out the man she has know her life as as her father (Hakeem Jacobs), is actually not biologically connected to her. The hole in her heart is not just a physical defect for Areia, but a metaphorical one too. She decides to head to Greece to find the sperm donor who gave her life, and on the way, discovers the meaning of family.

Generation Arts. "Half Of Me".

Erica Kouassi as Areia

The ensemble work very well together, and their movement during the physical sections of the piece are precise and visually appealing. As a Greek chorus, they are in sync with one another, engaging with the audience when telling Areia’s story. Kouassi who leads the show as Areia is a brilliant performer, embodying the character’s determination flawlessly. It is really enjoyable to see a strong, young, female lead encompass the stage so well. Another performer who stands out amongst the group is Nathan Wallace-Auguste, who hilariously portrays a member of the Greek court with his over-the-top performance, heightening the comedy of the role.

The  contemporary subject matter of Half of Me makes it a fresh and therefore interesting piece of new writing aimed at young people. Chohan’s exploration of non-traditional family structures, the laws surrounding the anonymity of donors, and how these affect those born by ART is an important topic to consider and discuss. Combined with the talented and diverse performers, Half of Me is a valuable and effective play.

Half of Me will be performed by Future Stage Company at Generation Arts in October, and by various regional theatres in 2017 as a curtain raiser to Tamasha’s next national tour, Made in India.