Poppy brings Christmas past to life at Chichester Festival Theatre

Poppy Baskomb’s time with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre has been a hugely-enjoyable progression.

Poppy, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Past in the youth theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol on the CFT’s main-house stage (December 18-January 2), is delighted at her own personal development through her youth-theatre involvement.

Poppy Baskcomb in rehearsals of Chichester Festival Theatre's A Christmas Carol. Photo by Mike Eddowes

Poppy Baskcomb in rehearsals of Chichester Festival Theatre's A Christmas Carol. Photo by Mike Eddowes

“It was my mum who got me into acting really. I was quite a shy and awkward child and didn’t really like to talk to people. My mum found a little theatre group when we moved into Chichester, called Stagecoach, and I just decided I quite liked doing the drama bit. It started giving me confidence, and at school it became my favourite subject. I was signed up for LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) groups, and I carried on until I got my gold award. We had to do three pieces, three different pieces with different styles, and then we were questioned about them, about preparation, about the style, about the background. I didn’t mind that as long as you knew what you were talking about!”

Poppy is now on her fifth main-house Christmas show with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre.

The first was Alice in Wonderland, a stage experience she enjoyed, though she had her doubts about the rehearsals. As a white rabbit and one of the elements which pieced the play together, the rehearsals were long and involved plenty of waiting about: “I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, is this what it is really about? Do I really want to come back?’

“But I did, and the next year we did The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and the rehearsals were a lot easier. That put the fun back in.

“And then after that, we did The Witches which was good because we were in two different casts. The cast I was in got on really, really well. No one was awkward. And then last year was One Hundred and One Dalmatians. That was really good fun as well, pretending to be a dog and dress up!”

Now, though, Poppy steps up to her biggest part so far, the Ghost of Christmas Past: “Last year was my first year for a speaking role. This year I have got a bigger speaking role which is great because this is my last year.”

An upper sixth-former at Portsmouth Grammar School, Poppy is intending to do a ski season in France next year during a gap year before applying to drama school.

“So next year I will be off and away. Drama schools don’t really defer places so if you want to do a gap year, you are better off doing it before you go, but also the industry is tough. You would want to get straight on with it after your training, so really I just thought if I wanted a gap year it had to be now.”

Whatever happens, she will take to drama school all the benefits of her years in the youth theatre: “Acting is something I really enjoy. I love it when people tell me I can do something. I want to show people what I can do, how acting boosts your confidence, how it gives you good life skills, being able to start conversations, being able to speak to people, all the social things you need, how you build up good friendships and good contacts. It has been great. It has made me want to challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone.”

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