It's a family affair for Lyla at Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre is home from home for Lyla Garner-Gibbons who is playing the blue fairy in Pinocchio, this year’s Christmas production from Chichester Festival Youth Theatre (until January 1).

Lyla Garner-Gibbons in rehearsals for CFYT's Pinocchio 2021 (C) Richard Gibbons
Lyla Garner-Gibbons in rehearsals for CFYT's Pinocchio 2021 (C) Richard Gibbons

“I started in the youth theatre when I was in year six but I’ve been coming to the theatre since I was a month old. My entire family works in the theatre. My mum is the stage manager on shows, my dad is the technical director and my brother used to do front of house and he also used to do the Youth Theatre. But it is definitely my choice that I am doing it too!

“The first youth theatre show that I did was Peter Pan and I did that in year six. I also did Sleeping Beauty and I did The Wizard of Oz and I did Pinocchio 1 and now I’m doing Pinocchio 2. I also did the summer show Crossing Lines which was fantastic.

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“Peter Pan was an amazing experience. I remember in the rehearsals. We were in the rehearsal room and I was a fairy and I was not quite sure what I was doing but I was running around talking very loudly in gibberish as a fairy and there were boxes and things all around and we had to run around like a fairy and hide behind them. And then when we were on the stage (doing the show for real) with all the props and the big boxes and the big pictures, it was just amazing to be doing that, running around in this big production as a ten-year-old.

“Having the audience there was incredible to see, all the people that had come to see the show that I was in but it never really scared me at all. I just wanted to make them feel something. I remember sitting in the audience watching my brother on stage and he became a new person. It wasn’t him and I was thinking I wanted to do that. I wanted to go on the stage and be a completely new character and then come off the stage and be me again. I just wanted to be in a show and do that.”

Lyla is keen to go into the theatre for a career but whether it will be just acting she doesn’t know: “It would be interesting to explore prop-making and costumes as well. Whether I go to drama school, that’s the big question. I want to study musical theatre at Chichester College and it would be very exciting if I get in, but drama school is a big question. Having done theatre since I was ten and having been in the theatre since I was a month old I think I just want to start doing theatre and getting on with it. I think I want to learn on the job rather than perhaps going to drama school, but I don’t really know.”

In last year’s Pinocchio, she played Candlewick: “I had two scenes with some quite testy lines to learn, lines that were quite blocky, like a paragraph to learn. No line that you say should ever sound the same because when you are saying it, it has got to be like you are saying it for the first time, that it is a thought in your head. When you are talking in real life you don’t have a script. With lines it has to be the same, that each line has to give the impression that you are just thinking of it as you go along. It was quite tricky but I loved doing it. And now this year I’m playing the blue fairy. Until this year I have never had a principal part before, like a named part. I have always been ensemble which is just as important but being given fairy was just massive for me. She is quite a motherly figure and we have tried to play around with the idea that she is the fairy that creates Pinocchio. She casts a little spell to help Gepetto who then carves him. It has been great to do.”