I love the theatre, so the West End of London is one of my favourite parts of that iconic city. I’m not the only one in my family who likes it either - my son has been studying acting and music in his spare time since he was little, and has had the opportunity to perform there a number of times both at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket.
He spent last week at West End Stage, a wonderful theatrical summer school that he has attended for the last four years. Taught by professional working actors, singers, dancers and directors, its a great opportunity for young people aged 8 to 21 to learn about the world of the theatre from industry professionals and West End stars. It’s an intense course, with back to back classes in acting, singing, dancing, stage combat and other acting techniques. Great friendships develop, particularly amongst the residential students, and the young people look forward to seeing each other every year. Newcomers are always welcomed too - and everyone is sad when the end of the week arrives, despite the excitement of the big performance at the theatre that hosts “Phantom of the Opera” virtually every other night.
The performance is always a great ensemble piece, with everyone getting to show off their strengths. It’a lovely to see the kids who were really nervous when they arrived the first night absolutely shining with confidence on stage. Whatever you want to do in life, the ability to stand in front of an audience and perform or speak is such a valuable life skill. And of course, like any parents, my husband and I always love watching our son perform and seeing how he has developed in that week of intense training. He has always had a gift for singing and acting, but some performances are special. As for this year, well, there is something very cool about hearing a seriously wonderful voice echoing round a West End Theatre and realising the person it is coming from is your son - and seeing from the looks on other people’s faces round you that they think it sounds pretty wonderful too.
The happiness and confidence beaming out of the children and young people we saw on stage on Sunday night - well - it was a joy to see. It certainly defied all the gloomy folks who say that young people in these days of economic uncertainty and societal change have little to be optimistic about. We left the theatre walking on air - and our son is already looking forward to next year.