Former Chichester Festival Theatre Youth Theatre member Lucy Betts directs the Christmas show

Director Lucy Betts in rehearsal for CFYT Sleeping Beauty Photo Helen Murray
Director Lucy Betts in rehearsal for CFYT Sleeping Beauty Photo Helen Murray

Director Lucy Betts admits she still feels she is dreaming as she directs Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty (December 15-30).

After all, it wasn’t so very long ago that she was a member of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre herself.

“I was a member from when I was seven until I was 20,” Lucy recalls.

“I had a good long run! I was in the first Christmas show that they did on the main stage, The Wizard of Oz in, I think, 2003, and then there was Oliver! and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

“It was just the most incredible experience. For me, it was about the friendships that I made. I am still best friends with people that I met when I was ten or 11.

“They are still friends now. It was just such a unique experience when you are creating something together and you share that passion and you find yourself with like-minded people, so fantastic when you have got people like (youth theatre director) Dale to look after you.

“It was my childhood. Absolutely. I had to go school. I didn’t have to go to the youth theatre! It was completely my choice.

“My life just wouldn’t have been the same. Throughout my childhood, my parents just let us find our passions. My brothers were in the youth theatre as well, in all sorts of different productions.

“It was such a huge part of our lives.

“When I got the telephone call to come to speak to Dale and (CFT artistic director) Daniel (Evans) about doing this show, I just couldn’t believe it.

“I still can’t quite! I still feel like I am dreaming slightly! And the people I am now working with are just incredible.”

There is plenty of enjoyable continuity – people still around from when Lucy left the youth theatre in 2006.

“I went to university first of all. I went to Roehampton. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a bit lost.

“ I knew I loved the theatre, but I didn’t know in what capacity. I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue, so when I graduated I came knocking on Dale’s door, and I got some freelance bits and bobs and then ended up running the youth theatre over at the Spring in Havant for a year which was great fun, great freedom.

“It was just handed to me in a do what you like kind of way.

“And then I got a job in Guildford at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre as a youth theatre leader and worked my way up until I was head of performance, not only directing but also programming the shows and looking after the creative side of the youth theatre.

“And then I left last year to start free-lancing. It was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying!

“But at the same time I am teaching in a school in Guildford which is really interesting to see the formal educational side of theatre and drama.

“And then I was just so lucky to get that call from Dale to come here!”

Dale has directed all the previous main-house Christmas shows for the youth theatre.

“She is an institution. She directed me, and I am much older than the young people in this production, so it has been adjustment for them. It is a really valuable lesson for them to work with lots of different people with lots of different styles.

“Dale and I are very, very similar but very different in other ways. We just have different styles, and that’s fantastic.

“She has one way and I have another, but we still get to the same place and really it is all about the same thing in the end.

“We are both working to enable these young people to tell their stories in the best possible way.”

Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre on www.cft.org.uk or 01243 781312.

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