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The Wall by Mercury Youth Company @ Mercury Theatre, Colchester!

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The Wall by Mercury Youth Company @ Mercury Theatre, Colchester!

After their sold-out production of Quadrophenia last summer, the Mercury Young Company is back, armed with one rock opera, acres of talent, and several purple wigs.

Based on Pink Floyd’s innovative concept album, this retelling of The Wall brings the story of troubled rock star Pink (Perry Baird) into the 21st century. Almost without dialogue, the band and cast brings to life a dark, unsettling world populated by schoolchildren, soldiers and groupies, and with memorable supporting characters like the unfaithful wife (Lucy Davidson), the despotic schoolmaster (Tilly Hawkins) and the absent father (James Clark), it’s clear that the real strength of the Mercury Young Company lies in the ensemble.

Tilly in action.

I went on closing night after a run of five shows, and spoke to some of the cast after their well-deserved standing ovation to find out what working on the show had been like.

“It’s been really crazy,” says Tilly Hawkins, who hopes to study drama at university. “We had two weeks of rehearsals and then we were in the theatre. The technical rehearsal went on for two days; it’s such a complex show, with lots of music and lighting cues.”

“It’s exhausting, but absolutely amazing,” says Forest Morgan, who has recently graduated from the University of Essex, “The quick changes are really quick, you’ve got to run to get on stage on time.”

They’re like scary Ghostbusters.

I also caught up with director Gari Jones.

“The big challenge with this was to get everyone involved, because the film is really about one guy, and we had a big cast and I wanted to make the most of that,” he says. “Like in the scene where Pink is on the phone trying to reach his wife, there’s about six couples dancing on stage, and that was about showing something everyone’s felt, whether that’s fear or paranoia.”

It’s like how I spend most Saturday nights.

One of the most memorable things about the show is the wall itself – a gauze curtain comes down, splitting the stage in two, at the end of the first act, and it stays there until everyone chants “Bring down the wall!” at the end of the show.

“When I said I wanted to have the wall there the whole time, people didn’t think we could do it,” says Gari. “But if we put it up then took it away for a scene it’d really weaken the concept.”

They’re not really trapped behind a giant crossword.

This isn’t Gari’s first youth production at the Mercury Theatre – his previous directing credits include The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Hard Times (both of which I was lucky enough to be a part of).

“I love doing the youth shows. I’m still proud of Caucasian and Hard Times. They haven’t decided what it’ll be yet, but the Youth Company will be doing another show next year, another musical. I’d love to do something but we’ll have to see what happens.”

If you’re aged between 16 and 25 and love drama, music or technical and backstage roles, you can be a part of the Mercury Young Company. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to find out about next year’s production.

Photography: Robert Day


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