As we are registering for Charitable Status, we have to submit references. We are lucky that our referees are The John Thaw Foundation and the Connections team at the National Theatre. We also though we would ask a parent for her comments on our work with her children. Her testimonial brought a tear to our eyes and her son's director commented that getting up every Saturday instead of a lie in, really is worth it. We are very proud that our work impacts on her family this way.
To whom it may concern
My 16 year old son, Cameron, was born with tremendous physical and medical difficulties and at first they did not know whether he would survive , or if he did, whether he would ever walk or talk. It took a long while but he eventually did both. He attends a Special School but has always enjoyed being on stage, either singing, dancing, acting or presenting all the way through school. As Cameron’s sisters were members of the Little Actors drama group in Wanstead, London, he asked if he could join when they started the Youth Theatre. He has not looked back since.
Through Little Actors he has found an intense love of Shakespeare and was given the lead role in ‘Macbeth’ Act 1 Scene 4 and that of Puck for a part scene in a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. He had acted, sang and danced his way fantastically through ‘Oliver the Musical’ as Fagin two Christmases before but absolutely amazed everyone with his brilliant delivery and well observed performance in Macbeth and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. This is what Cameron wanted to say about Little Actors himself:
“I love Little Actors because when I do a performance the audience always congratulate me because Little Actors always give me a lead role in all the plays that I have done with them in the past 3 years. It’s always given me confidence.”
On the strength of all this, Cameron decided he wanted to do the open audition for the Globe Young Players doing John Marston’s ‘The Malcontent’ at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre which we found out about through Little Actors. With help from the Little Actors Youth Theatre leader he chose absolutely the right speech from Richard III to deliver along with an acted version of Fagin’s ‘I’m Reviewing the Situation’. He was so delighted to be able to tell everyone at Little Actors that he got through to the second round for a workshop led by the play’s director studying the last act of ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and a scene from ‘Hamlet’ (which they spent a session on at Little Actors with all the other children included in order to help Cameron familiarise with it). He was up against it but acquitted himself well and felt at ease because he already had experience through Little Actors of the warm-up games they did. He was in the last 200 out of 1,000 which was amazing for a professional standard expectation, particularly as he has both language and speech problems.
As a result of his experience with Little Actors (everyone knew Cameron knew the story of Macbeth pretty much inside out) Cameron went on to play Witch No. 1 in another performance of Macbeth by his special school for the ‘Shakespeare Schools Festival’ at the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford in October. Those children put on the most alive and characterful performance in our opinion over three mainstream schools – their deputy head said he was the proudest deputy head in the whole UK and they are going to do another performance at school before Christmas. There is such a wealth of untapped talent even out there in the world of so called ‘special needs’.
Little Actors themselves expect the children to work hard on their lines but encourage them to own their performance and to input into the staging. There is no sense of uncomfortable pressure but the children do it because they are infused with an excitement and commitment to work as a team rather than to outdo each other and are led by people who are performers themselves and know what they are talking about. I have seen all the children flourish and I would say that the Shakespeare initiative this year has awakened in several of us parents a massive enthusiasm for the Bard so that whole families can share the joy that is Shakespeare. We are so happy to know that our children have enjoyed such a wonderful introduction to not only his work but to the realms of storytelling, mime, and musical theatre too. The Youth Theatre is now busily creating their own play for a festival next March and are really looking forward to it with the burgeoning confidence that has been instilled by the wonderful Saturday morning experience that is Little Actors. We are so grateful to them.