Chichester Festival Youth Theatre open-air debut with Shakespeare classic

Elise Christina Donoghue has been with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre since she was 11. She's now finally making her debut with them – A Midsummer Night's Dream in West Dean Gardens (until Aug 19).
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“I've always absolutely loved watching all their shows but I've never really had the availability until now. And it's just fantastic.

“My mum told me about it at first and I joine d the Bognor group. As soon as she found out that there was a youth theatre I was put into it straight away. I came from being a dancer but as soon as I joined I realised that acting was what I wanted to do. I've always had a love for language. There's something so beautiful about someone using their words to affect somebody else. If someone is in love I want them to tell me, not show me. That's what language is for – in real life as well as acting and I just feel that I always know if someone is being truthful. I trust words. You can just tell so much by the tone. Even on the phone I always feel like I know when someone is telling the truth.

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“And I just feel Shakespeare's characters say what they feel. In a lot of contemporary plays they're not saying what they're feeling. Something else is going on but in Shakespeare they go straight to the point. It's great to be able to have all those words to be able to say exactly how you're feeling. It is great as the characters to have that available to you and Shakespeare just sums it up so beautifully with the imagery. The most famous quotation in A Midsummer Night's Dream is ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’, and that's what the play is like. It is not a linear journey. A lot of mischief happens. The language might be straightforward but everything around it isn't!”

Elise Donoghue joins the cast (photo by Andrew Paul)Elise Donoghue joins the cast (photo by Andrew Paul)
Elise Donoghue joins the cast (photo by Andrew Paul)

Elise is playing Helena: “I just love her. She is very vulnerable and honest and open. There's something so powerful about her being able to put all her feelings out on the table. She knows it is not reciprocated and I love that about her. There is such a negative connotation connected to the word emotional but to be able to express all kinds of feelings is just lovely. It's great that she's able to do that without seeming weak or anything like that. I'm so happy to play a character who wears her heart on her sleeve. She believes that she is worthy of love otherwise she wouldn't be fighting for it and she definitely deserves it!”

The production will be in the open air as a promenade performance in West Dean Gardens (August 4-19): “We are working with an excellent vocal coach. She has made us find our voices. We talk about bringing the outside in. We rehearse inside but we've got to feel that we are outside when we are rehearsing. We've got to be able to raise our voices.”

And for Elise, it is excellent experience. She's off to Oxford School of Drama for a foundation course and will be auditioning for a three-year course after that: “I just love the theatre. I love learning. I love education there is something so beautiful about learning every day.”