The Cars experience

Four cars, four ten-minute scenes, with actors sitting in the front of the car and the audience of three in the back. It’s a novel idea and should prove popular with Roscommon audiences when it takes place on the Square in Roscommon at the weekend. Cast members spent recent days rehearsing for the show, rehearsing the scenes in groups under the direction of Catherine Simon and Megan Riordan. Catherine explains, ‘The idea is four cars and four scenes happen in the four cars, developed and written by the group. We are working on this since October, every week. What happens is that the audience sit in the back of the car and the actors sit in the front and the scene takes place, lasting ten to 12 minutes. The audience rotates, so in total it’s about 40 minutes.’ ‘Themes include ‘Just Friends’, ‘Bullying’, ‘Off the Rails’ and ‘Big bad world’. They deal with people and their relationships and how a situation can change a relationship.’ The people involved in the youth theatre are aged 14 to 22 and the production is suitable for over 13s. The youth theatre group in Roscommon was established in 2001 and this is the first time that the group has ventured onto the street. Two cast members, Stephanie Hudson and Laurence Cole, were both in the National Youth Theatre show in the Peacock Theatre in Dublin last year and are also involved in the young writers’ programme and young critics programme.  Young actors take part in two-hour workshops each Sunday and once rehearsals begin, that’s upped to five hours of rehearsals, with each cast in for two and a half hours. I recently spoke to three cast members Verity Hill, Laurence Cole and Stephanie Hudson and heard about their experience to date with the Youth Theatre group. Verity from Roscommon town, got involved in the group over two years ago and is really enjoying the experience of this year’s show: ‘Before it was learning scripts and coming onstage. With this one, we have been involved in the making of it. I enjoy being a member of the group very much.’ While Verity has been involved in singing previously, her involvement with Roscommon Youth Theatre was her first foray into drama and she greatly enjoys the social side of it, meeting new people and making new friends. ‘During the production we all got very close, everyone got to know each other very well.’ Ballaghaderreen-based Laurence Cole just turned up for the auditions for the Youth Theatre two and a half years ago and has been involved ever since. ‘It’s brilliant, good fun. At the workshops we learned different ways of learning lines and how to become a character. Because we created the characters, we made them as opposed to just learning about them.’ Last year was an eventful year for Laurence. He travelled to Maynooth and Dublin regularly to take part in the National Youth Theatre, spending two weeks in Dublin preparing for the annual show. ‘It was brilliant because it was professional and you got a taste of it as if it was a job,’ noted Laurence. Athlone’s Stephanie Hudson enjoyed the spontaneity of the workshops from which Cars was born. A member of the Youth Theatre for two years, she greatly enjoys the experience. ‘I enjoy the fact that we devised it ourselves and enjoyed seeing it made completely from improvisation. All the material came from our improvisations, it was really spontaneous.’ ‘It’s just different from anything I have ever done before. Being in a car and not on stage, it’s just different from what people would expect. It was good to join the Youth Theatre and get involved in something where you have fun and meet people, especially last year’s production, we all got close and it was a real team effort.’ Of the three, only Laurence intends to follow up on an acting career, setting his sights on film or TV work as opposed to theatre work. Verity intends to study medicine but is looking forward to keeping up the drama as an interest and Stephanie is undecided about whether to do further arts training at college, but definitely plans to keep it up at college. ‘It is not something I will be giving up,’ said Stephanie. The cars will be seen on the square this week, to stir the interest of theatre goers. Tickets for the event are available from Roscommon Arts Centre. Shows take place on Thursday and Friday at 7 pm, 8 pm and 9 pm, while on Sunday, they take place at 6 pm, 7 pm, 8 pm and 9 pm. In total there will be 17 productions, so two casts are involved and both casts were involved in the writing. The production is funded by Roscommon County Council Arts Office and cast members come from all over the county. Go along and enjoy the Cars experience.