Bath Young Actor 2020
Sponsored by King Edward’s School
Despite the restrictions of a drastically limited audience and social-distancing, one aspect that didn’t suffer was the quality of the performances. Janine Diamond, one of the two adjudicators, said how important it was to acknowledge the extraordinary circumstances where amazing work was being done during a pandemic.
Each contestant had to produce a ten-minute repertoire on a chosen theme. Kambua Hilman’s exploration of the theme of ‘Entitlement’ won her the junior cup. There was a topicality about Kambua’s pieces with Margot, the mayor of a New England town trying to deal with a ‘power’ pandemic, to ‘Strange Fruit’, the disturbing poem about the lynchings in the southern US states, which she recited with power and conviction. Adjudicator Rebecca Vines applauded this choice, saying, ‘Performance should make us think, make us move on.’ She commended Kambua on her charisma, warmth, energy and sincerity which combined to produce a winning performance.
Runner-up Kate Hulin chose ‘Perseverance’ for her theme and presented a range of pieces that highlighted her strong technique. She captured the sombre mood of Betjeman’s poem ‘Tregardock’ perfectly and, as Mary in The Secret Garden, gave a subtle performance in which she allowed plot and character to unfold. Rebecca Vines praised her work and, in particular, her stage presence which was at a professional level.
The winner of the senior cup was Alexander Spencer Jones. The seventeen-year-old explored ‘The Self Unseeing’ through a range of extracts from Stoppard’s classic play ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ in which he gave a poignancy to Rosencrantz’s confusions about the nature of death, to the existential despair of Hamlet in his ‘O that this too solid flesh would melt’ soliloquy. Janine Diamond commended him on his ‘really brave interpretation of such a canonical text.’ His performances throughout were expressive and character-driven and the extract from ‘My Family and Other Animals’ was a thoughtful shift in tone in which he created an excellent contrast between the eccentric characters.
Runner-ups in this section were James Bamford and Isabella Lane. ‘Compulsion’ was the theme James chose and his performances were certainly compelling, with Rebecca Vines calling his Hamlet soliloquy ‘turbo-charged.’ As Trigorin in ‘The Seagull’ he clearly revealed his character’s permanent dissatisfaction and inflated ego but, it was as Charlie Brown he wowed the audience. As Rebecca Vines put it, ‘Your Charlie Brown will live long in people’s memories: charismatic, charming and goofy.’
Isabella Lane’s repertoire on the theme of ‘Motherhood’ tweaked every emotion. Maya Angelou’s ‘Mother, a Cradle to hold me’ was a moving, unsentimental opening delivered in a rich, resonant voice. There was much humour to be found in Jill Smokler’s ‘Confessions of a Scary Mom’ and Isabella captured the character of the harassed mother of three perfectly, before switching to a monologue from Andrew Bovell’s emotionally wrenching ‘Things I Know to be True’. This was beautifully controlled and as Janine Diamond put it, she showed how ‘visceral it is. You could feel the tension in your body.’
‘The standard here is off the scale,’ said Rebecca Vines and both adjudicators admitted how hard it was to choose the winners. The high standards did not just reflect the work put into the evening’s competition pieces but the day to day journey that had taken place over many years.