Manchester is currently enjoying a vibrant fringe theatre scene. But the two-week Tell Me the Truth About Youth Festival stands out. It is not limited to theatre but includes radio and DJ sessions, live music and even cuisine. Most significantly, however, the Festival is directed at young people who are least inclined to attend a theatre.
Although My Young and Foolish Heart is written and directed by professionals, the intergenerational cast are amateurs. The only way in which this is apparent is vocal delivery. Ironically, professionals are trained to the extent that they sound more authentic when pretending than amateurs do when telling the truth. But what may be lacking in professional sheen is more than compensated for by raw honesty and style.
The script, by Sonia Hughes, is inevitably episodic as people of all ages bump into each other and discusses vital subjects like life, love and the best way to embrace death. The modesty of the performers makes the stories all the more powerful. The tale of a woman who met and lost her love on a number of occasions is all the more striking for being told humbly with little drama.
The cast injects a natural cheekiness to the proceedings, for example moments when performers broke off from a Q& A session to try and score with an audience member, or took advantage of the situation to audition for any talent scouts in attendance.
Perhaps recognising that the subjects are the type that people are most inclined to discuss after they've had a few, drinks director Max Webster sets a relaxed atmosphere. Gradually the cast constructs, and then destroys, a garden party. This apparently chaotic approach works beautifully as the differences between the experiences of young people in older and younger generations emerge in natural conversations. The cast get the chance to show off their musical and dance talents and deliver great one-liners: 'I used to have an invisible friend but then I stopped attending church'.
My Young and Foolish Heart proves that when a theatre company takes a few chances and actually involves the community in its productions the results can be inspiring for those who take part and a moving experience for audiences.