From girl to god in 50 minutes: Merton teenagers prepare for Royal Albert Hall show

A troupe of Merton teenagers are eagerly rehearsing for a once-in-a-lifetime performance at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow.

The group of 21 of the Wimbledon Civic Theatre Trust’s (WCTT) Young Actors Company, all aged between 13 and 15, will be treading the boards of the iconic venue to perform a show about the River Thames.

River Tales, commissioned by the Merton Music Foundation, depicts the retirement of Old Father Thames and his attempts to enlist granddaughter Naomi as his successor.

The show’s writer and producer, Andy Alty, said: “There are so many stories about the Thames you can tell, it’s breathing history.”

He added: “It’s an epic tale of a journey from girl to god, in 50 minutes.”

Mr Alty has been involved with the WCTT for eight years, having previously scripted TV dramas like The Bill.

His script is partnered with original music and lyrics created by Pete Churchill and Adam Saunders.

The show features rapping rivers, a choir of more than 1,200 primary school children, a professional orchestra and the booming voice of opera singer Keel Watson, who has been performing for more than 30 years.

Reeve Fletcher, 15, who is playing the ‘rebellious’ lead role, Naomi, said: “I’m excited when I think about it, but obviously before you go on it’s very scary.”

She added that she will feel absolutely fine after finishing her first song.

Though many of the cast and crew have been involved in theatre before, the size of the Royal Albert Hall makes it a unique proposition.

Director Katie Turner-Halliday said: “Some of the challenges have been scaling everything up.”

However, she is confident that the young cast are capable of capturing the attention of such a large audience.

Mr Alty is similarly trusting of the talented cast.

He said: “The most exciting thing is when you see these young people suddenly discover they can do something.

“You can see that light bulb moment.”

He also noted the focus, creativity and confidence of the troupe in the run up to their big day.

The WCTT is a charity which gives young people from across south west London free access to the arts.

Though supported by The Taylor Family Foundation, Mr Alty said that he hopes Wednesday’s performance will give the charity some much needed exposure and help it keep its doors open to children aged 11-19.

He said: “Any child can come for free and we want to keep it that way, but it’s getting progressively harder.”

Tickets for River Tales can be found on the Royal Albert Hall’s website, and the WCTT also has two upcoming shows at the New Wimbledon Theatre’s studio.

Feature image credit: Rebecca Cresta of the Merton Music Foundation.

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