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Petra Schofield writes about her experience performing on this fantastic one-off occasion…

From the outset I need to be clear – yes I was part of this Gala performance and my love of theatre and drama was fuelled by my membership of Bodlets many moons ago.  That aside this is not entirely a review of the evening, but a thought for what has been an extraordinary training ground over the past 50 years and how the profile of youth theatre has changed in Bath.

Bodlets in its humblest beginnings was merely a youth theatre group, a training ground for BODS where it was assumed you’d move on to when you were old enough and whilst one or two people might pursue vaguely theatrical careers it certainly wasn’t the goal at the time and if you had a few dancing lessons then that singled you out as a “real” dancer extracurricular training wasn’t widely available.

Looking at us “returners” who assembled to take part on Sunday – some solo singers, some dancers, some just to be back with the huge family of friends that amateur theatre offers; it was very clear that youth theatre in Bath is now a very different juggernaut.

In the years I was with BODLETs 1980 – 1987, from the beginnings in St. Alpheges Hall and the performances in the now demolished College Theatre; I can remember the late Paul Reeves being the baton bearer of great things, going on to being an original cast member of Starlight Express amongst many other high profile West End productions, he sadly died very young.

Surrounded by 46 other returners –  in the years since many of us have gone from the fun of BODLETS  under the guidance of Greg Vere on to train and work professionally.  Some folk appearing in major West End Musicals and at the National Theatre, aside from extensive cabaret and dance work; some returning to Bath to set up their own theatre related businesses and of course those who swung by the TRB on Sunday as it was their day off from current West End roles.

The returners performed alongside as many current Zenith company members who hoofed, sang and generally danced their socks off in a way that would just not have happened all those years ago.  Extra tuition, specialist theatre schools and thriving choice of drama companies outside of school all reflect the extraordinary opportunities on offer to young people today.  The standard is very, very high and this is reflected across the industry when suddenly fiercely talented young folk get their first taste of auditions outside of the smaller amateur circuit.  It can be disappointing and surprising, but such is the nature of the beast. It doesn’t mean that you ever give up if it’s what you want to do, you just bide your time and try again.

Zenith have a huge amount of their members getting into high profile drama schools and whilst this may be the aim of many of the young hopefuls, what was evident on Sunday was that theatre breeds a family unit like no other.  The shared friendships, fun and experience cannot be replicated; the support to each other regardless of ability is evident and whilst us “returners” came together for the first time in many years, we immediately returned to the trials and tribulations of shows gone by – this is what keeps amateur theatre on track and why it remains so popular.  Drama and theatre creates teams stronger than any other, all returning professionals sat and reminisced of the good days and the bad with those who maybe just occasionally now tread the boards at local pantomimes.

The resulting Gala was an extraordinary occasion for all concerned, the full house of firm supporters and the announcement of a huge successful fund raising drive was a fitting tribute to what has for many folk been part of their formative years in theatre; under the Direction of Scott Rogers and the superb choreographers, Delia Lee and Julie Dallimore it is clear that Zenith are continuing the work set up all those years ago – if you want to have a go, you can – who know where it might take you?  Here’s to the next 50 years of youth theatre in Bath, what a wonderful family to belong to and a privilege to have been part of such a great milestone.

Petra Schofield

 

For photos of the event please visit the Zenith website HERE