Youth Arts in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Guest post by Joshua Korber Hoffman:
The International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston-upon-Thames is a ten-day celebration of the talent of young people worldwide. Now in its ninth year, the festival showcases around 200 events in the borough of Kingston, providing both free and paid events, with entertainment taking place in both indoor and outdoor venues. The festival consists of theatre, music, comedy, performance art and art exhibitions, all produced and performed by youngsters below the age of 26.
The festival opened on Friday 7th July, with a two-hour performance in the Rose Theatre, providing a taste of what is to come in the next 9 days. The evening was introduced by festival director Andy Currums, a young and enthusiastic personality, who began by highlighting how many of the world’s artistic heroes produced some of their best work in their teenage or early adult years. The performances were impressive and fun displays of youth talent.
The evening began with a performance from Ethiopia’s Circus Abyssinia, including dance routines demonstrating incredible flexibility, mind-boggling juggling skills and nerve-racking gymnastics. The camaraderie of the young people was heart-warming, and the audience happily clapped along to the tricks and applauded in awe at the skills of the performers. Their full show, Moon Dreams From Ethiopia, can be seen on June 9th, at the Rose Theatre. Next up was Tapestry, a play raising issues of identity and American history. Powerfully presented on the Rose Theatre stage, the scene that was performed displayed maturity, strength and wit, once again showcasing emerging artists. This show can be watched in full on June 10th in the Rose Theatre Studio. Prior to the interval, an assortment of teenagers performed self-composed rap songs in the café, supported by family and friends. The songs were performed with passion and in a jovial spirit. The power of art to inspire and entertain both young and old was the clear message of this performance, and indeed the evening.
Following a short break, the audience returned to the theatre to enjoy the second half. This time, the parents were advised to be aware of adult themes and strong language. Although much of the festival is family friendly, some acts explore serious and traumatic themes, whilst some comedy acts do not shy away from controversy and expletives.
Each year, the International Youth Arts Festival, or IYAF, handpicks the best young talent from the Brighton Fringe. One such theatre troupe, Put the Book Down Theatre, presented a harrowing scene from the play Mine, a drama focused on the mother of an abhorrent criminal, who is forced to overcome feelings of shame with inspiring courage. The one-woman show is performed with extraordinary power, and the whole show can be seen in the Rose Theatre Studio on July 11th. The last theatre performance of the night was a series of scenes from The Next Placement (Reflection Theatre), a play examining the intricacies of the foster care system, following the life of a father and son adopting a sixteen-year-old parentless child, who is tired of being moved from house to house. A performance by young people dealing with issues affecting young people, this play, available to see on July 13th and 14th in the ACT Main House, epitomises the purpose of the Kingston festival.
The tumultuous evening concluded with two comedy acts, the first being another IYAF Best of Brighton Fringe winner. The IYAF is proud to be scouts of emerging artistic flair, and the comedic scene from The Starship Osiris did not disappoint. Expected to live up to previous IYAF award winners such as Police Cops (the comedy that sold out at the Edinburgh and Cape Town Fringes 2016 following their original performance at the Kingston IYAF), the rather amateur yet hilarious scene performed for the audience had us in raptures. The presence of the main character, his skinny appearance emphasised by his lycra outfit, cut an amusing figure on stage, brought to life with moments of awkward silence and perfect comic timing. Their full show can be seen in the Rose Theatre Gallery on July 9th. However, the cringe comedy was nothing in comparison to the final act of the night, the Bad Clowns Comedy Group, presenting a ‘comedy masterclass’ entitled Teasing the Funny Bone. Filled with potentially sensitive jokes, the comedy was certainly not from a politically correct generation. Despite the occasional void of laughter in response to an uncomfortable joke, the three young men had the audience in stitches. The full show is on July 14th and 15th in the Rose Theatre Studio.
Thus, a thoroughly entertaining evening came to an end. I left with huge excitement for the rest of the festival, with dozens more events happening every day until July 16th. This festival showcases the best of young talent from across the world, uniting diverse communities to celebrate art together. It is uplifting, inspiring and, most importantly, fun.
For more details about the acts and other events happening around Kingston, visit the festival website