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Review of Kontakt by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

Theatre at its very best is a totally encapsulating experience. While you are relaxed in your theatre seat, you want to be taken to this created land and dragged into the lives of the people on the stage. You want to suffer the stress, the fun, the wide-eyed joy of those actors in front of you.

Royal & Derngate's Youth Theatre gives you a very different immersive experience with Kontakt. During it running time of 45-60 minutes, you are very much part of the performance. Not any old part, you don't get dragged on stage for a couple of minutes here or there. You are pretty much fifty percent of the show, for the whole show.

Originally created and developed by Philip Mackenzie for the Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre in 2008, the format is on paper simple, if a little scary to the audience member. You and a youth theatre actor share a table for the duration of the show partaking in games, simple question answering, drawing, some more deeper thoughts on life and dancing. For those regular theatre goers, all of that stuff sounds worrying. Indeed in the last year or so I have seen all the youth theatre shows (some more than once), and I have to say I had reluctance on this one. It is a hard sell, its true. However I was always going to go to it and now having been, it was a even mistake to think not to.

During the whole experience you are never uncomfortable. You may have a little apprehension. You may have a little fear in your belly. You may even discover your inability to use an early generation mobile phone. However the whole experience is a joy like no other you could experience. Philip Mackenzie said himself "How often does an adult sit across from a table with a 15 year old and have a meaningful interaction or conversation?" It's pretty much never isn't it. My conversationalist was 18 year old Jacob, a mere 20 years younger than myself and I don't recall ever having had a conversation of anything like this with such an age gap. Also whether I was successful or not I don't know, but I managed to come out of my own true nature of shyness for this show. I have always tended to lurk and skulk rather than throw myself forward, and perhaps this engineered my fear of the show more. For the shows duration, I attempted and hopefully was successful to be a much more outward person. I certainly have never held eye contact for so long as anyone who has ever spoken to me with attain too. Oh what's that over your shoulder? This is very much a show where in theory the audience member could have a review as well.

The production of the show itself is also quite a masterstroke from Christopher Gorry and Jesse Jones from the slightly intimidating standing in a box which then turns into a clever and even more intimidating use of the R&D balconies. There is then the old retro phones which you can nearly remember how to use. The Underground itself has been turned into a delightfully dark interior with gorgeous bulbs (yes they can be gorgeous) and them wonderful old school desks to bring back the memories. It all creates quite an atmosphere for a really special show.

So thank you Jacob on not being at all intimidating. I have the pleasure of making Kontakt again tomorrow and now have less trepidation and now just a keen need to experience it all once again. I hope that somehow this show can be done again in future years and that other people like myself finally find that it is not at all scary, but more a dazzlingly inventive piece of interactive theatre that all should and I think truly would enjoy.



Performance reviewed: Friday 19th June, 2015at the Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton.

Kontakt is performed by the R&D Youth Theatre at the Royal & Derngate between Thursday 18th June and Sunday 21st June, 2015.

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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