A big youth theatre adventure on Chichester Festival Theatre stage

Milena Harrison got the chance to stand on the Chichester Festival Theatre main-house stage as part of the 60th anniversary concert earlier this year.
Milena Harrison - 2022 Tim Hills PhotographyMilena Harrison - 2022 Tim Hills Photography
Milena Harrison - 2022 Tim Hills Photography

She will next be standing on that stage as part of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s production of The Wind In The Willows (CFT main house, December 17-31). Milena is sharing the role of Mole with Lily Barkes and can’t wait for the big adventure to begin. The inquisitive Mole abandons spring-cleaning his burrow and, to his delight, discovers the river. There he meets Ratty. Soon the two are firm friends. Over at Toad Hall, the ebullient Toad persuades them to join an excursion in a horse-pulled caravan – only for disaster to strike...

Milena, who has just turned 18, was about seven or eight when she first started getting interested in the theatre: “My dad works in the theatre and I think that influenced my love for it a lot. I was lucky enough to get to see the shows. I was able to be sneaked in at the back.

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"My dad works at the Festival Theatre. He is a stage technician. He does set and lights and so on. One of the very earliest shows I can remember seeing was the ballet Giselle and I remember being taken backstage and seeing the show from the wings and just thinking that one day I want to do that myself. That memory has just always stuck with me. I've always wanted to be on that stage.”

As for the attraction of acting: “I just want to be able to have the chance to tell someone else's different story and to get the chance to feel different emotions as well. In my everyday life I don't always feel completely comfortable as myself but to get the chance to be someone else on stage I just love. I love the idea of telling other people’s stories and other people enjoying it. I joined the youth theatre when I was 13. I left and then I came back. I think the first time I felt a little bit scared and found it difficult trying to fit in. Maybe I don't think I was ready but the actual environment was great. But I needed my confidence to grow a bit more and when I came back, it was really good and I've enjoyed myself a lot.”

Now this is her first main-house show and she goes into it having loved the experience of standing on that stage for the anniversary concert: “To be on the stage was always a dream but to be on that particular stage was always part of that dream. I loved being on that stage and looking out. It almost felt like looking out at heaven.” And it's certain to seem even more so with the Christmas show: “I hope I can make people feel things and make them laugh and entertain them.

"I'm playing Mole alongside Lily and I do think Mole is someone that the audience will relate to. As the audience see everyone come on, Mole also sees everyone come on for the first time and you can feel the excitement. Mole is a bit naive and a bit innocent but there's something very special about the fact that Mole finds joy in the very simple things and I hope that the audience will come away with that feeling too.”