Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre
Venue: St. John's Church, Canton
Directed and Developed by Phillip Mackenzie
Dates: 28th Oct - 6th Nov
Review by Chelsey Gillard
Photographs by Andy Hammer
The first point of contact with another human being is usually through the eyes, but it is rather unusual to find yourself sat behind a little table, in a candle lit church with a complete stranger staring into the depths of your soul. Kontakt is an annual event that forces communication and understanding between different generations and backgrounds, beginning with a surreal staring competition where nothing is said and the only noise is eerie music and the snap of candles burning.
The beautifully haunting venue.
Waiting for the performance to begin I really didn't know what to expect, all the information I could find on Kontakt was rather elusive. Next thing I knew a young man appeared asking the "participants" to take their seats. Not knowing what to do I waited until someone informed me I was indeed a participant and of course this filled me with dread; I do not enjoy the whole "He's behind you" routine and audience participation puts me on edge.
Throughout the night different young people from the cast took the seat opposite me sometimes just to chat, others held my hands in silence, one questioned me on the fundamentals of good and evil but all broke through the shield we put up when confronted with an uncomfortable and unexpected situation. In this respect the event was real success, I felt like I had really gotten to know some of the young people, I even agreed to get up and dance which is an event that usually only occurs after a good few rum and cokes.
Every "participant" was persuaded to bust some moves.
In contrast to this I felt some of the content was irrelevant and just plain awkward. There was recurring dance that the cast would do in front of the tables, the first few moves looked like the beginning of the Macarena and this had me desperately trying to stifle my giggles, at one point it got so bad that the performer in front of me got the giggles too and I had to look away every time the move came around. Another poor choice was a position where the dancers put their hands on their hips, for girls fine, but the boys looked so comically uncomfortable. I have to say I'm not entirely sure what purpose the dancing served.
One of the teenage girls who sat opposite me broke the magic by asking "Do you think this is acting? Because I don't." Having had time to consider this my view of the whole experience is that although it is not traditional theatre it will teach the young performers a lot of essential skills; concentration, audience connection, self-confidence and the ability to be true on stage.
Getting to know you...
I would honestly encourage everyone to make Kontakt, it's eye-opening, educational and heartwarming. It was like speed-dating without the date, but with a lot more truth. I learnt a lot about myself and will keep the souvenir picture I drew with one of the actors to remind me that it is possible for humans to honest and warm towards each other. I will definitely be attending next year to see what new social challenges the company can offer.