Theatre review: Half of Me, Lyric Theatre

Generation Arts. "Half Of Me".

Generation Arts. “Half Of Me”.

Generation Arts isn’t just a worthy cause. The pre-drama school established in 2012 by Ali Godfrey not only gives disadvantaged young people access to acting training, but also highlights real talent that may otherwise get lost in the increasingly privileged world of theatre.

Half of Me is a collaboration between Tamasha Theatre Company, the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University and Generation Arts. With a grant from the Wellcome Trust, this is a play with a science background.

It’s a very modern play about Areia, a teenager born through ART (assisted reproductive technology) struggling with her identity after she discovers the man she calls dad isn’t genetically related to her.

For a treatment as common and as assimilated into our culture as IVF and other ART treatments are , they are rarely discussed beyond conception. This play gives a voice to young people born through this method and explores the ethical dilemmas posed by those involved.

Half of Me also shines a light on the diversity of the modern family. The notion of mum and dad and 2.4 children is so Brexit;  the characters in this play are loved and cared for by parents who explode the myth that the nuclear family is the only family.

If this all sounds terribly worthy, it’s not. Half of Me is warm, funny and engaging. Satinder Chohan’s poetic script, peppered with rhyming couplets, and the fluid, inclusive staging of Generation Art’s founder and director, Ali Godfrey, keep the tension taunt and the action moving so it’s the people, not the science, we’re involved with.

Areia’s journey, both literal and metaphorical, is chartered under the audience’s watchful eyes and the ‘chorus’ – every member of the cast is on stage at all times – lending the production a punchy, Greek theatrical feel (Areia’s family come to Greece for ART treatment; Areia is obsessed with Greek art).

The cast are all engaging, but it’s Erica Kouassi as feisty, independent Areia who grabs your attention. Her Areia is ballsy, but fragile, determined but compassionate. She’s one to watch. 

Half of Me is a play with a big heart and a lot to say which it does with tremendous heart, compassion and fun. 

Generation Arts



Theatre Review: Dirty Special Thing, Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross

The cast of Dirty Special Things, a Generation Arts production

The cast of Dirty Special Things, a Generation Arts production

Theatre-goers know that a great play can alter your worldview, but it’s rarely as genuinely life-changing as the Future Stage Company, a scheme run by Generation Arts, a project committed to transforming young, disadvantaged people through theatre.

The project takes young adults aged 19+ who are classed as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and offers them high quality acting and theatre-making training. It’s a much needed project in an industry that is overwhelming, and seemingly increasingly, white and privileged (both on and off stage).

Dirty Special Thing is the culmination of nine months of the cast – Future Stage Company members – being put through their acting paces. It had a four night run at the impressive Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martin’s very own stage.

Dirty Special Thing proves that Generation Arts is far more than just a worthy experiment. There is genuine talent on display in this ensemble piece, an original production that follows the interlinking lives of everyday Londoners. At the heart of the piece –  like a human Charing Cross – is a young taxi driver, on the cusp of passing the Knowledge and gaining his Green badge. There are several set pieces, following individuals from different walks of life as their lives criss-cross – and eventually collide (quite literally).

There was a great deal to recognise in the characters – the lost kid in care inspired to study by a great teacher, a self-obsessed City boy, a frazzled carer – and while the stories Dirty Special Thing told didn’t wander too far from stereotypes, all the parts were well-grounded in reality and reflected this town in ways theatre rarely does.

And while the story itself might not be radical, this is important theatre and it’s good to see progression especially at a time of savage arts cuts. Many of the cast have gained places at acclaimed drama schools and universities, a path that I’m sure many of them were never sure they’d be in a position to follow and I won’t be surprised to see some of these faces again in the not too distance future.

Get involved or learn more about Generation Arts and the Future Stage Company

by Suzanne Elliott