Taboos, prejudice and conflict are brought into sharp focus in a new play taking to the stage in Norwich.
A classroom is left in chaos after a pupil, Jamal, is taken away from the police. While there are uprooted tables and chairs, there is also a mental cost as the young people face up to their diverse personalities and beliefs resulting in anger and resentment.
That is the starting point for Extremism, which is being presented by the Norwich Theatre Royal Youth Company at Stage Two in the city on March 2-4.
Penned by Anders Lustgarten, it is being presented as part of the National Theatre’s Connections scheme which gives young people the chance to perform new writing as well as the possibility of taking their productions to the National Theatre itself.
Heather Kelly, who plays Rachel, said Extremism plays into a lot of topical themes and concerns that people have at the moment. She said: “I think it is quite scary because of everything that is happening in America and with a lot of the protests going on. We are so fearful of the future and what is going to happen.
“This play is about a group of teenagers in a room who don’t know what to do so they lash out. It is what happens on social media when people attack each other about things they don’t have the full knowledge of. They are actually just reaching out.”
As well as the strong themes and issues, the cast have had to learn some new skills while building on their characters. Heather Kelly said: “We did a stage combat class and that was really helpful giving us safe tips and ideas of how to make it look realistic.”
And Isaac Byram, who plays Star Trek-loving Samuel, faced an additional challenge. He said: “He is a bit of an outcast in the sense that he speaks Klingon. It is a language used in his favourite TV show and he incorporates it into his character in the sense he develops himself through emotional fear. The backstory I created for him was that he was bullied a lot and the only way he could express himself is through Klingon because it is quite a harsh language. You say lovely things but it sounds quite threatening.”