The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Preview – Whole

Ben Marshall previews the Bolton Octagon’s upcoming youth production ‘Whole’ and speaks to Julia Samuels, co-artistic director of 20 Stories High

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It’s unfortunate that youth productions are not shone in the same light as professional shows today. But if you really open your eyes to some of the promising works that are offered in this genre of theatre, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And with only a small insight into 20 Stories High’s latest production Whole, due to be performed at the Bolton Octagon later this month, this already sounds like it is guaranteed to be one of those hidden gems in an under-explored treasure trove of theatre.

Presenting us with a close group of teenagers who are telling the emotional story of their long-time friend Holly, this play deals with a wide range of social and cultural topics that are sure to evoke deep thought about not just your own life, but also the perception of the world through these young people’s eyes.

Julia Samuels, co-artistic director of 20 Stories High, kindly took time out of her busy rehearsal schedule to speak to The Mancunion; she gave us an insight into how the teenagers work with the Liverpool-based theatre company, which showcases a lot of youth theatre.

“As well as the young people from Liverpool, we work with a lot of young people who come from Africa, and there’s a very interesting encounter that happens between these two groups who’ve been brought up in very different ways”.

She went on to describe how the way that these two groups of young people interact helped to shape the content of Whole; “Lots of the conversations they have are about things like sexuality and religion.

They really enjoy debating and stretching each-others’ ways of thinking by talking about this, and that provided us with the basis of thinking about Whole. We explore the themes of sexuality, friendship, love, death and religion – some quite big questions”.

It is evident that the ways in which two very different cultures of young people work together, and the chemistry between them, looks to create something special.“Our young actors have some real differences of opinion, but also places where they really come together”, Julia explained.

“And this can be seen in Whole – a play based on the real experience of young people living in Britain today. The audience are on a journey with the performers and the story they’re telling – there’s a close relationship between the two”. And they’ve not sacrificed high production values either. “It’s quite an elaborate, exciting set, and also music is very important to us, of which we have singing and spoken word”.

Clearly, there is passion and excitement in what Samuels and the 20 Stories High team want to show to their audience, and with great passion comes great theatre.

And since ideas are being explored that are so relevant to young people in today’s difficult times, I wholly believe this production won’t let you down.