More than 40 young people from Blacon joined forces with the same number of their peers from across the city to tell two powerful new musical stories.
The stories contained the themes of compassion, acceptance, tolerance and hope.
With the overarching title Christmas Child, the two theatre groups had spent the autumn months writing more than 10 new songs, developing characters, shaping stories and eventually coming together to delight audiences with two new musicals.
The double-bill theatre event was the brainchild of artistic director Matt Baker who set the theme in September and challenged the separate groups to each create a new piece of theatre ready for audiences in Chester city centre in December.
To add to the excitement, the two companies were only able to see each other’s new play at the technical rehearsals which took place at St Mary’s Creative Space.
Jigsaw Music Theatre, which attracts young theatre makers from across Chester, created a piece called The Boy Who Wrote Messages. The piece was adapted from several lesser known tales with songs written by the company. It was directed by Millie Stevenson and Will Wood.
As a taster, the company performed the songs, set to music by Matt Baker, in front of Dee 106.3 radio DJ Gavin Matthews at the opening of the Garden Quarter Christmas market.
Meanwhile, Rewind, the company of theatre makers from Blacon, had been working with Theatre in the Quarter and Cheshire Dance in the creation of a new story entitled The Girl With No Name.
This heartfelt musical play included dazzling dance creations involving music from around the world. The young company also wrote their own songs which they performed at the Blacon Christmas Fayre and a fundraising event for the Hospice of the Good Shepherd before they joined forces with Jigsaw in Chester city centre. The play was directed by Mike Beigel and Lauren Tucker and Emily O’Shea of Cheshire Dance.
Former theatre group members Archie Pytches and Sam Kelly worked with Erin Elston in designing and projecting the lighting for the performances.
Erin said: “It was such a thrill to have former members develop new skills in such a way. They were both exceptionally creative and the plays looked fantastic under their lighting designs!”
Company manager for both groups Julie Elston said: “I can honestly say there was magic in the air when these two groups, many of whom had never met each other before, came together to perform two innovative stories.
“The children were slightly scared of each other at first, and nervous that they would be outshone by the other group, but the opposite happened. I was moved to tears to see how well they got on, and how they helped to raise the standards of their own performances.”
Artistic director Matt Baker said: “We are all so proud of what the young people achieved. The stories were magical, told with real passion, and with terrific heart-warming messages for the audiences to take away. And the singing and dancing was off the scale this year!”
This year’s projects were made possible by generous support from Saughall Rotary and St Thomas of Canterbury Church.
Matt added: “Thanks to these donations we are able to offer places to young people for whom finance may be a barrier to membership.”
Matt also explained how touched he was at a particular singular donation. The late Brian Spruce, father of Sam Spruce who attended Theatre in the Quarter projects through his teenage years, left a legacy of £400 towards the work that the company carries out with young people.
Matt said: “We were all incredibly touched by this wonderful donation. Brian was a terrific supporter of all we did, and his death was a shocking surprise to us all. We know he will have been happy to see so many young people benefit from his legacy, just as his son Sam gained so much from being involved in Theatre in the Quarter over the years.”
Jigsaw and Rewind will be returning in February for new projects. Any children aged seven upwards who attend school can join Rewind, whilst children aged seven – 12 years from across the borough can join Jigsaw. There is an additional group for teenagers called Quartz.
More information can be found at www.theatreinthequarter.co.uk or by contacting Julie on 07747110933.