This time last year we were introduced to the great annual event known as Primetime, which comes to the Royal Court Theatre at the beginning of the summer holidays. It is a series of short plays written by youngsters aged 8-11 years old, all packed into an hour of fun in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.
For Primetime 2016 we returned to the Royal Court on a very warm Saturday afternoon. It was a relief to arrive early as it meant we could have a cool moment in the bar in the basement. When it was time to watch the show we trooped up to the top floor to find space on the floor in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. The sparse set was done up like the outside of a factory with a worker (Amalia Vitale) in a high-vis vest loitering about and talking to us in character before the show began. And then we were off, launched straight into the madcap minds of the Primetime writers.
The eight writers of the stories are young, the ages of my own kids and others who sat around us in the audience – what a thrill to have their own plays performed on stage in front of the public! And with such a brilliant cast. The cast of six (adults) are amazing, young and dynamic themselves, with eight short plays to perform, and hardly a second to rest between each one. I enjoyed the way that Amalia Vitale used members of the audience (kids sitting on the floor in front of her) to help with her make up and costume changes when she had to turn into a different character. It’s great for the children to see that and makes the adults realise that the actors have to do this type of thing themselves, there is not a group of dressers backstage!
The plays are diverse and hilarious, imaginative, some sad, and sometimes quite surreal. From the first one (‘Where’s Gilbert’ by Abigail Uche-Kalunta age 8) I was hooked. The giant teddy bear named Gilbert, the princess who is ashamed to be seen with him and throws him into a bush, her search to find him again. My son said so many of them were so good, but his favourite was ‘The Lucky Football’ (surprise surprise) by Mehdi Zebboujie, another talented 8 year old, and both children really enjoyed ‘The Jungle’ by Joyee Lee, age 10, about a bully who is taught a lesson by animals in the jungle. Then there was ‘John the Cheesecake’ by 10 year old Rex Clark, which saw John (an actual cheesecake) in a boxing ring against Sammy the Sponge (a sponge) with real fans for fans. I told you it was a bit surreal.
The last short play was called ‘Alex Beckit’ and was written by Jabir Tahori, age 11. Jabir, I would watch a 90 minute version of Alex Beckit right now, I think you have a hit on your hands! The star of this one, Kayla Meikle, played this teen rebel turned spy just perfectly and I really was left wanting more.
I can’t say it enough, the cast was just fantastic, very appealing to the kids and obviously entertaining the grown ups too judging by all the laughter. My kids’ favourite was Rohan Nedd and we all kept pealing into laughter just to see David Ajao’s facial expressions. What a laugh. So much fun, and so impressive that these plays are straight out of the minds and pens of children.
The Royal Court is hosting ‘Open Court’ until 6th August, which was curated by Young Court (the Royal Court Youth Board – you can read more here). They were gathering our ideas about what we had seen and my kids enjoyed writing their feedback on the wall. As far as Primetime went, it was obvious that everybody had really enjoyed it.
After a quick look out of the hot balcony onto cool Sloane Square, we were off. But already we’re hoping there will be a Primetime 2017.
For full listings of the Royal Court Theatre, see their website.
Disclaimer: We were given free tickets to see Primetime 2016 for the purpose of this review. All opinions and photos are my own.