Two boys will be playing Boy, the youngster charged with combating the evil witches in Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s festive production of Roald Dahl’s classic this Christmas.
The Witches runs in the Minerva Theatre from December 7-January 4 with two separate companies alternating shows across a total of 40 performances, the Youth Theatre’s longest-ever run.
Riordy Kelly, 11, of Chichester, a student at Bishop Luffa, will be Boy for half the performances; Portsmouth Grammar School student Finn Elliot, also 11, of Chichester, will mop up the rest.
They will never meet on stage, but they are clearly on the same wavelength, full of enthusiasm for the huge opportunity which lies ahead.
As Riordy says: “Boy is quite a caring character, caring for his grandmama. He is a likeable person, quite a bright person. He is quite clever and smart.”
And he needs to be.
“We meet Boy after his parents have died,” says Finn, “when he is in Norway staying with his grandmother. That’s where she lives, and he goes on holiday. And his grandmother starts telling him about the witches, how to recognise them.”
The book was one of the first novels Riordy read: “I have always known about Roald Dahl, and I just thought the book was great. It’s a really good book. I found it really interesting. I didn’t get bored at all through it. It just kept me reading!”
Finn was similarly impressed: “I read the book before the play. It’s a really good story, really exciting. It’s quite different to the other Roald Dahls in some ways. It’s scary!”
For both Riordy and Finn, it’s a chance to pursue a passion.
“I love acting,” Riordy says. “I have always loved watching films and stuff, the way people are amazing and make people laugh and be happy. I had heard about the youth theatre, and I wanted to be part.”
Finn is also a natural: “I love acting. I just love standing up and performing. My mum did a lot of acting before I was born, amateur things. She got me into acting when I was younger. I have been doing acting since I was very little. I did a thing called Centre Stage when we were in Singapore. I started when I was three or four.
“Acting makes me feel happy. I like being expressive. I like being fun and jolly. I get a lot out of acting. I love to perform. I am quite an active person as well. Acting gives you a great adrenalin rush.
“It would be such fun to be a professional. It’s definitely very hard, but it is great fun and very exciting.”
Neither minds the fact they will be working hard while schoolmates will be putting their feet up over the Christmas holidays.
As Riordy says: “Of course, I would love to have a good holiday and to relax, but I am doing what I love doing. I love going on the stage. We won’t really get a Christmas holiday, but this is just as good, to be acting all the time, every day.”
Finn is conscious it will mean looking after himself. There will be a homework let-up: “And we have to have early nights. We have to relax and try not to worry about things.
“I try to think positive and realise it is really fun and there is nothing really to worry about, that everything will be fine.”
Riordy admits: “I will probably be a bit nervous. The first night will be the worst. This is my first main part in a show.”