Berzerk Productions' Spilling My Heart Out HereBy Caroline Cook
February 27, 2013
When I walk into the hall where Berzerk Productions is rehearsing its latest show the first thing that strikes me is the sticky-looking red heart that’s being thrown around the room.
The second is the blood smeared across the school shirts of the cast, and the third, the streaked mascara on their faces.
It looks as though I’ve walked onto some kind of Quentin Tarantino-style set but it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to I’m Spilling My Heart Out Here, than dishevelled hair and gory props.
“It’s a very psychological play,” says George Pearce who is playing Dan. “It’s about a group of friends and a new boy called Sean who comes in and joins their group.
“The play explores how there’s so much more going on in their lives than what you see, like a lot of gossiping and fighting between everyone.
“And it shows the emotional damage that is done to people through the physical things like the blood.”
The Woodley-based theatre company is performing the new piece by writer Stacey Gregg as part of the National Theatre’s Connections Festival.
The festival sees 230 youth theatre groups perform one of 10 plays at their local theatre and a venue elsewhere in the country – which for Berzerck will be the prestigious Bristol Old Vic.
“It’s a huge privilege to perform there,” says Tom Bassett, who plays Sean.
“A lot of people don’t get the chance to perform somewhere like that.”
An industry expert from the National Theatre will attend the performances and 10 groups will be chosen to perform at the London venue in the summer.
The young cast at Berzerck have been working hard to polish the show before opening night tomorrow, and have enjoyed getting messy with the bloody props in the process.
“We’ve loved it, it’s so different from what we would normally do,” says Somer Jones, who plays Wilson.
The collection of fleshy organs have been created by Reading College student Joanna Stokes who is studying a course in theatrical and media make up and hair.
“The organs are mostly a mixture of cotton wool, liquid latex and paint,” she explains, adding that it takes a day or so to make each part.
“You have to leave it overnight to dry and I’ve added Vaseline to these ones so they’re glistening.”
Joanna will be in charge of making a fresh batch of blood for each night of the show – a mixture of red food colouring, sugar, syrup, cornflour, and, if it’s being spat out of a mouth, chocolate powder.
“You get plays about teenagers which are all the same but with this it’s literally blood and guts,” adds Tom.
“It’s not very often you get to do this kind of thing.”
But while the gore is striking director Matt Whitelock reminds the group that there is plenty more, er, meat, to the show.
“Our main objective is to tell the story,” he says.
“There is blood and hearts and things but what you can really see is what life is like for young people.
“It’s a very demanding script, it’s very physical and there are private moments teenagers wouldn’t want someone else to see.
“It shows what a difficult world it is for teenagers because there’s no clear boundaries.
“We’ve discussed all these things as we have rehearsed and they have all been really mature about it.”
After an intensive week-long rehearsal during half-term the young cast are eager to get on stage and are hoping their powerful play and bloody hearts will be enough to get them to The National.
Berzerk Productions presents I’m Spilling My Heart Out Here from Thursday, February 28, to Friday, March 1 at The Oakwood Centre, Woodley. Call 01344 484123 or visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/berzerkproductions