It smells like teen spirit! Feel the Love lands at Chickenshed this week with a cast of over 200 young people exploring what it is to love and be loved. It has been three years since Feel the Love was first performed, and since then, these themes have been revisited and refreshed by a Youth Theatre with a voice that’s louder than ever before with many contributors returning to Chickenshed Young Company fold to support and develop new members and new voices.

Rufus Walkden talks to us about returning to the Young Company after heading off to University last September, and how Feel the Love kept him engaged with the company and enabled him to bring his new experiences and skills to the creation of the piece.

My connection to this project began approximately a year ago when I found out the Young Company would be revisiting ‘Feel the Love’. This happened during the Summer Scratch in July 2018, a week where many ideas for the show were presented, tested and developed.  In fact, so many ideas and scenes were generated during that week, that when we presented at the end of the week, we overran by quite a bit!

Inconveniently for me, I began studying at university in Liverpool, but not before insisting I would never actually leave Chickenshed. True to my word, three months later when term ended, I sent an email asking whether there was anything on that I could get involved with and was given the dates for a set of creative meetings for the upcoming Youth Theatre summer show. I attended and we discussed concepts we’d like to cover, what worked three years ago, how the work could be updated and generally formulated ideas that would go on to become pieces in the show.

During one of these meetings I remember there being a huge amount of writing and ideas that had already been generated by Youth Theatre members and wondering how on earth this was meant to run to less than two hours.  Another three months passed and once again I found myself back at Chickenshed involved in more creative meetings. This time ideas for pieces had been set and discussion had turned to where those pieces would fit within the structure of the show and what exactly the content of the pieces would be. I also heard what the rehearsal dates would be for the summer term and realised that while I was at uni, I wouldn’t actually miss too many rehearsals that term. So, at the start of June I came back and immediately started going to the rehearsals.

Thanks to the creative meetings, I knew roughly what all the pieces would be about, so I managed to fit myself into them with relative ease. Comparing the current script to the portfolio of writing we received over the winter, it seems like almost everything from that portfolio has been drawn from to create the show in its current form, with contributions from a wide range of writers and creators. During the last month I’ve found myself involved in the show much more than I initially expected and I’ve loved every part of it.