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Brave New World Festival @ Battersea Arts Centre

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by Ellie Ross (subscribe)
Freelance travel writer and Policy Adviser for the UK government living in Brixton. View my blog for ethical and budget travel inspiration
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Cutting Edge Theatre in Clapham

Battersea Arts Centre is used to hosting innovative productions, and occasionally the word innovative doesn't go far enough. Homegrown offers a series of theatre classes and workshops for 12-25 year olds.

I was lucky enough to catch the performance put on by both the youngest group and the oldest group. The youngest group presented a humorous account of Peter Pan, but not in the way that we'd expect. Instead, these youngsters, some of whom looked far, far younger than their 12 years, recounted the issues of remaining a child forever, and having to stay in 'Neverland' without London, their friends and their parents.

Wearing their pyjamas, there were occasional laughs, but best of all, they took themselves seriously. There were none of those silly giggles or self-conscious hair-tosses that usually afflicts pre-and young teens in school recitals. Instead, these kids were here to learn, give a good performance and entertain. The simple format was great, the dance at the end was a tad arbitrary, but otherwise, it was fun, amusing, and full kudos to Homegrown for producing such a great group of mature and interesting young performers.

After a pleasant but not challenging performance from the youngest at Homegrown, I anticipated a pleasant and not challenging performance by the 18-25 year olds. Instead, what I found was a group of four performers with the same angst, questions and confusions as myself, acting them out on stage. One woman questioned 'bravery' and what it was. She got up on stage, tied on a bright emerald cape and entered into conversation with the audience. She was bright, cheery and absolutely engaging: she encouraged audience participation, made us think, and gave a very good impression that she was brave.

The second man performed a long poem which he performed while changing his clothes: his poem represented the complete lifespan in a way not dissimilar to Shakespeare's 'Seven Ages of Man' in As You Like It. It was clever, and spoken so slowly, and in such a guarded way that it was funny and thoughtful. My favourite was by a girl called Eleanor (I remember this, because we share a name).

She talked about her role as future mother, and questioned how she would act as a parent. Could she give everything up? Her props were fantastic. She started a long running commentary, all the while baking a loaf of bread and representing the stereotype of motherhood. Any performance that ends in the 'mother' tearing apart a loaf of bread that is meant to represent her 'bun in the oven' or her child gets my vote. It was witty, deep, intelligent and incredibly well acted.

All in all, I was wonderfully surprised by the work produced by the 18-25 year olds, and I urge you to try to catch them at work. All workshops will be presented at various festivals at the Battersea Arts Centre, so click here to check for upcoming events.

Because they are 100% well worth your time.
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Why? To see cutting edge new theatre
When: Evenings
Phone: 020 7223 2223
Where: Battersea Arts Centre
Cost: Depends
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