Tribe Youth Theatre's new drama Blood Brothers takes on some serious themes but the teenage cast are determined to show they have the emotional maturity and talent to pull it off.
Set in the 1960s, Blood Brothers follows the story of a set of twins who are separated at birth when single mother Mrs Johnston gives away one of her sons to her upper class boss Mrs Lyons.
Years later the boys inadvertently meet and become friends with the show taking on themes of class and money, nature versus nurture, religion and superstition.
It seems a lot for any cast to handle let alone one that is aged between 12 and 18.
Cedar-Rosie Russell, 18, and Georgia Campbell, 17, play the two mothers in Blood Brothers.
Campbell, who plays Mrs Lyons, said what could have been a daunting drama to research and put together has been easy thanks to the cast's bond.
She said young performers often want to explore dramatic or taboo subjects in theatre.
"It could easily become not a very fun experience but the cast and crew have been so supportive that it made doing even the hardest, most emotionally draining scenes good to do," she said.
"A lot of people who put on a youth show would shy away from something like this because 'the kids aren't ready to perform it' or 'it will be too much for the kids'.
"It shows that if you give kids an opportunity, a lot of the time they are mature enough and smart enough to understand the themes and how to portray it in a respectful and really interesting way.
"I think there would have been a lot of people who had doubts when they heard about what this show was and that we were doing it. But it is a good opportunity to show that absolutely we can do it."
Russell, who takes on the role of Mrs Johnstone, said she was shocked that Tribe selected Blood Brothers but that the cast and crew had been incredible in developing the show.
"Comparing it to something like Grease, which is so two dimensional, even though we love it, I was shocked they picked it for a youth theatre group knowing it is a class commentary and a drama that isn't sweetened by a big dance number.
"I've been describing it as harrowing class commentary set in Liverpool in the '60s. And it is harrowing. It's not a breezy afternoon of entertainment.
"But it's so raw in the dialogue and truthful in the performances that it's an advantage that we don't have the bells and whistles of an entire set or elaborate performance space.
"It's (being performed) in the Engine Room, which is a small space. So it's being kept intimate so that it feels sincere. That makes it more heartbreaking. The audience will be so taken on that emotional journey."
The emotional journey has come with strong support for the cast from the Blood Brothers production team.
"Some of the cast already know each other and we have gotten so close," Russell said. "It is valued highly because all we do on stage is emotional warfare. To be able to get off stage and have a snuggle or word of support is so valuable.
"Thomas Moore is directing with advice from Vanessa Bate and Chris Emond, who are all very researched, experienced and know what their doing.
"Their collective spheres of knowledge means there is so much support. It would have been a rough time without that."
The importance of theatre for helping young people develop is not lost on Russell and Campbell.
"There is so much to be learned from theatre," Campbell said. "It takes a lot of emotional maturity to stand on a stage and deliver a monologue, dance or sing. That's putting yourself out there and you learn so much form that.
"It's not easy at all but you learn how to be confident but humble enough to share the stage with 50 other people."
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Founded as part of the Bendigo Theatre Company, Tribe Youth Theatre began in 2017.
Their debut show was Barnum, which they followed up with The Wyrd Sisters and Grease in 2018.
Russell said in that time Tribe had begun to establish it's own brand and get recognition from the theatre community.
"Community theatre has 'community' in it because its success and quality relies on every single person involved," she said.
"Being a grassroots production with almost no budget (for Barnum), everything was done through the blood, sweat and tears of, not only the cast, but the most committed crew and creative team.
"(Tribe) has worked its way up and has had incredible results from working for the sheer love of it.
"Now we have somewhat of a brand emerging due to the successes of our musicals and plays. Bit by bit we're inching our way up the ladder of budget and recognition and a trust from Bendigo audiences in the quality and integrity of our work."
Tribe Youth Theatre present Blood Brothers at the Engine Room from April 11 to 17. Visit www.gotix.com.au for tickets.
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