Selsey is an isolated rural town in West Sussex and home to Arts Dream Selsey, a charitable organisation which offers a range of arts participatory projects to the local community.  In July 2021, as Covid restrictions were gradually easing, they staged a production of Charlie Chaplin the Return. Focusing on local 16-24 year-olds, the project provided a ‘safe space’ for these young people to build their knowledge and resilience in preparation for a career in the Performing Arts. Working with professionals, they were given the opportunity to develop their technical and performance skills and enhance their CV for future career aspirations.

“Wow! What an opportunity to work with some top professional directors, writers and choreographers. It was a very special experience for me as I got to take on a variety of roles within the production. My roles changed as the piece went on as one of the actors had to self-isolate and I had to learn additional lines and improvise around an idea. A very difficult thing to do although it taught me how to be more creative, learn to adapt to different situations and become more resilient in times of stress!

We had to do a lateral flow test every day before the show, only touch our own props, not share any costumes, and eat alone in the green room. Our spaces in the stage were all marked out, and we had to adapt everything we did to comply with the Covid regulations, and not only make sure the actors were safe and secure in what they did, but also the audience.

I enjoyed leading the singing warmups and finding different strategies for preparing content to do before each performance. Taking a leadership role is something I joy and feel that a career in Drama Teaching is something that I could aspire to.

At the end of every show, we had to spray down our costumes and props with a sanitising machine. I think going through an experience like this will stand me in good stead for anything I want to do in the future.

It was an electric run of performances as there was so much, we had to contend with. My knowledge base of theatre has increased dramatically as I now understand some many different protocols that have to be adhered to provide a safe environment for everyone. At the end we all agreed ‘We had done it! Phew!’”

Participant

Photo by Chris Butler