Last month I tuned in to Scottish Youth Theatre’s digital broadcast, 2020 Stories: a showcase of work by 20 young writers aged between 15-25, performed by a group of professional actors. In total there were 20 pieces, all centred around the theme of Covid-19 and its impact. As a writer myself, I know just how hard it can be to write something meaningful about our current climate that feels hopeful and optimistic in its outlook; This, I believe, is exactly what 2020 Stories set out to do, and successfully delivered.
What made the event so engaging for me was the diversity in style, which ranged from monologues in the more traditional sense, to spoken word poetry, speeches, and verbatim work. This, paired with actors of varying ages and experience, made for a truly exciting and varied evening. Each piece engaged with a new perspective on Covid-19; Some, such as Shelley Middler’s Kettle’s, and Cole Stewart’s That’s Him Got it Anaw finding a more lighthearted take on the lockdown, while others like Moayed Karar’s poem Ark, or Rhuiri Hind’s Soldier of Health dealt compassionately with the darker realities of life during a pandemic. What was very apparent was the difference in age and maturity in the group, which created a lovely mixture of styles, tones and voices. While not as obviously upsetting as stories from NHS staff, or those who have lost loved ones, simpler pieces such as Violet Ptolomey’s My Life is a Snow Globe, and Isobel Speirs’ Please Leave a Message gave us an insight into how young people leaving school are coping with the pandemic, amidst an already life-altering transition.
A stand-out piece for me was Danielle Shields’ The Other Side, beautifully performed by Anna Russell-Martin. This piece dealt with mental health, and specifically depression, in the context of lockdown; sending out a message of hope for people struggling. I found the piece to be incredibly emotive, as Martin read out a list of the things she couldn’t wait to do again. Whether or not you struggle with mental health, The Other Side was a touching and relatable piece, carefully and subtly delivered.
While some pieces stood out more so than others, the event as a whole was executed very well with some excellent performances by renowned Scottish actors such as Alan Cummings and Elaine C Smith. Producer and mentor Mahri Reilly, and assistant Ryan Hay, organised an excellent event that showcased some new and very promising young writing talent.