Blog: Laughter, tears and magic

Youth Theatre Alumni perform onstage (Photography: Georgina Downs, Phillipa Burt and Daniel Fearn)

“I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Robert and Philip in the Youth Theatre play, Jane”, said my mother’s friend to my mother, one day in late April, 1991. A stunned silence, then: “What. Youth. Theatre. Play?” was mum’s reply. The play in question was Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations; mum’s response was due to the fact she and my dad had expressly forbidden my brother Phil and I to be involved in it so near to our exams. So I’m ashamed to say, we snuck out of the house anyway each evening for rehearsals and performances. In hindsight, it was an extremely irresponsible thing to do, but I did say I would be candid about these memories.

Recalling memories of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre has been like re-reading a favourite book over again. And Ernie’s is my favourite chapter! As suggested above, recounting these would not be complete nor honest, if left to what we did on stage. When you have outgoing youngsters together in a theatrical environment you will always get the ‘high spirits’, and for me, these were the best bits of Ernie.

A review of ‘Ernie’ by Annemarie Nicholls (Rob’s personal copy) – click image for larger size

Once on the way across Oaklands Park to rehearsal for Ernie, I spotted some of my co-actors on the roof of the Minerva Restaurant with plastic prop guns during a break. So, as a responsible older member of the cast I naturally ran and joined in. This event, fondly remembered as the ‘Gunfight of the Minerva Corall’ (as in OK Corall) would have had the city sealed off by the army if it had happened nowadays! I also remember how a search party was once sent out for a missing cast member (who shall remain nameless) who was later found tied to a statue in front of the Festival Theatre by his mates. Great times!

As I get older, I feel an ever stronger bond with people I meet in this life journey, especially those from earlier on, such as the CFYT Alumni. We may not see one another for years or even decades, but we all grow older and experience life together, safe knowing that in times of need we will be there for one another. And recent events have significantly proven the truth of that to me personally.

So here’s to CFYT, here’s to the bonds it formed out of the romances, the faux pas, the jokes, the laughter, tears and the magic that I first felt in Captain Stirrick 27 years ago. It hasn’t faded one bit.

Raising a glass to Phil (on the right – Rob’s personal photograph)

And here’s to the names that form this part of my life history past, present and future. My fellow CFYT Alumni: Alex Hartman, Amanda Dean, Aimee Hobson, Amy Jeavons, Andy Brereton, Angus Hubbard, Anne Wenn, Anthea Dobry, Ben Green, Cordelia Bugeja, Cath Strudwick, Callum Dixon, Dan Fearn, Emma Joiner, Georgie Downs, Harriet & Rosie Freshwater, James Thorpe, Jo Dunn, Jonathan & Simon Edwards, Justin Pagram, Kate Vaughan, Kate Steggel, Kate Richardson, Louise Ansley, Lucy Ladbroke, Lee Dennison, Matt Andrews, Megan Tonkyn, Michael Horne, Nik Funnell, Nik Hill, Philippa Burt, Richard Arnell, Richard Hanson-Smith, Rob Hall, Robin Waterson, Seb Finlay, Shelley Rawlette, Sarah Sealey, Tina Martindale, Tom Pook and many, many others.

And here’s to you, the readers of my blogs, with thanks for letting me share these with you and the history of this amazing Theatre.

Finally, and above all, here’s to Philip Hall. My brother for 38 years who is a pivotal part of these CFYT stories. So here’s to you, Phil. Goodnight and God Bless, until we meet again.

Read the first, second and third of Rob’s posts in this very special series of blogs.