THEATRE REVIEW - Wake Up Call, Neon Youth Theatre, South Holland Centre, Spalding

The cast of Neon Youth Theatre Spalding's last-ever performance, psychological thriller Wake Up Call.
The cast of Neon Youth Theatre Spalding's last-ever performance, psychological thriller Wake Up Call.
  • When the pressure of operating within a rigorous system becomes too overwhelming
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Final curtain for Spalding theatre group where youth thrived

The entire complexion of Wake Up Call, a taut thriller about the risks of “breaking away from conformity”, changed when this reviewer was hit by a bombshell.

Neon Youth Theatre, whose young actors brought The Terrible Tale of Nipper Towers and Real to Reel to South Holland Centre’s stage in 2013 and 2014 respectively, is no more after seven years.

Like so many other areas of public life, Neon has felt the blade of austerity which means it won’t add to the ten stage productions and two films it has produced since 2008.

But the theatre group bowed out in style with a gripping, 45-minute drama about a group of young people who eventually turn on each other when they revolt against an authoritarian state.

The action centre around two distinct groups, Minister (Laura Burbery) and her allies Coleman (Chloe Howling) and Righley (Beth Martin) whose job it is to keep their young subjects in line.

Then there is the Spartacus-like Gabby (Katie Murray) and her group of rebels Orla (Alice Dougan), Ava (Lilly Evans), Marcus (Hayden Lincoln) and Lacey (Melanie Turner).

The rebels start off united in their uprising but when Gabby turns into the very monster the rigid system was designed to banish, the group’s bond fractures as Lacey and Orla at their leader’s hands.

Wake Up Call contains all the elements of escapist thrillers such as The Ipcress File, Lord of the Flies, A Clockwork Orange and that ultimate in cult TV shows, The Prisoner.

Director Dawn Richmond-Gordon said: “The creative process began this year when we sat down together to evaluate our previous productions.

“We concluded that the group had developed a lot over the three years that Neon had been running in Spalding and, this year, we were ready to take on a more challenging concept.

“From these discussions, the idea of a physical theatre piece that challenged the notion of right and wrong became the leading idea.

“Since its launch in June 2012, Neon has quickly become Spalding’s most innovative youth theatre and 2015 is the final year of three-year funding, using public money from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

“Unfortunately, due to the challenges of the current financial climate and cuts to public spending, we are in a position where we can no longer sustain Neon Youth Theatre financially.

“We have therefore taken the very difficult decision to close both Neon Lincoln and Neon Spalding after their final productions.

“When we started Neon Lincoln back in 2008, we never imagined that we would be able to run a second group in Spalding, so we are incredibly sad to see it go.

“But we watched with pride as our dedicated young members sent Neon out with a bang as they performed their final production.”

Neon Youth Theatre has indeed bowed out with a loud bang.

Review by Winston Brown