Stella Swain is delighted to have been part of Chichester Festival Theatre history this summer.
Rupert Everett, Patricia Routledge, Edward Fox and Immelda Staunton are a few of the big names to have trodden the CFT boards this summer and autumn since the venue’s reopening after its multi-million refurbishment and redevelopment. But Stella and her friends from the company of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s production of The Witches can boast they performed on that new stage long before the stars arrived.
The Witches was the youth theatre’s Christmas show in the Minerva last year with the main house out of action, but just before the main house reopened in the summer, The Witches were reassembled to test out the new facilities: “We came back as a try-out in the theatre,” says Stella, “and it is lovely to think how many people have gone on to perform on that stage since!
“But we were the first ones on there! There were a lot of people wanting to see how the new theatre was going to work, and it really was a work in progress. But everyone was so enthusiastic and so excited. They got schools in as our audience, and when we did our performance, I think there was a big sigh of relief because everything was fine.”
And now Stella, aged 17, of Arundel, is back on that stage again as the CFT returns fully to normal and the youth theatre resumes its traditional Christmas slot on the main-house stage, this year with Dodie Smith’s The Hundred And One Dalmatians in a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery (untilJanuary 3).
Pongo and Missis Pongo, an adorable couple of canines, are fortunate enough to own Mr and Mrs Dearly, an adorable couple of humans
The excitement in the household can hardly be contained when Pongo and Missis become the proud parents of 15 adorable Dalmatian puppies. Then along comes Cruella De Vil, the nastiest, cruellest villainess...
Stella is playing the Labrador: “The Labrador plays a big part in finding and rescuing the puppies. The Labrador is really enthusiastic, but not always that helpful. I am going to say that she is a girl Labrador. She really does try to be helpful, but it doesn’t always work out.”
Stella is looking at a future in the business, though not necessarily acting. She also enjoys writing and history and might yet look to explore the writing side of the theatre.
“But I do really love acting. It’s really expressive. It’s lovely to be somebody else for a bit. You have to be yourself for forever, so it’s lovely to be in someone else’s shoes for a while. I was in my school shows at primary school, Arundel C of E. They had a school show every year. I remember being Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. I must have been seven or eight. We had quite a few shows and quite a few summer shows. I really loved acting in them, and then I joined the youth theatre when I had the opportunity, when I was ten or 11, and then I started acting as a hobby rather than just doing it at school.”
The Hundred And One Dalmatians is now the latest chapter: “It’s a great experience to perform to such a large amount of people, but we are a really close team. It’s really close and like a family. We get to spend a lot of Christmas together. Last year, we even did a Secret Santa.”