Last week the Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue was transformed into a venue for women with extraordinary success stories to tell. If Chloe Can, a short play by our partner the National Youth Theatre, was the centerpiece of the occasion and MP Esther McVey brought some theatrics of her own. IdeasMag was there…
London’s West End is doesn’t usually fill its theatres with coach-loads of inner-city schoolgirls.
Maybe it should do it more often: the audience of 13-to-16-year-olds at the Lyric Theatre last Wednesday was certainly lively and surely anyone would rather go home clutching a pink glossy magazine than a cast list.
This was If Chloe Can, a National Youth Theatre project designed to inspire young females with the life stories of women who have achieved extraordinary success by following vocational career paths. The event combined an NYT performance with words of advice from real women.
Written by emerging 23-year-old writer and actor Karla Crome, the play was funny, to the point and successfully steered clear of sounding like a careers advice session. It opened with schoolgirl Chloe (Sophie Wardlow) and her friends sitting on the wall at school and talking about the big things in life: lip gloss, boys and whether or not to do A-levels.
With brilliant performances all round, when the actors slipped offstage to mingle with the girls in the auditorium, they could have been fresh off the coaches themselves: “Miss, did you find it hard splitting your time between family and work?” Questions like this set the ball rolling for a Q&A with the real-life stars.
“If Choe can, you can too” is the message from television presenter, businesswoman and MP Esther McVey, creator of the If Chloe Can magazine that inspired the event.
Blonde, coiffed McVey introduced her guests. From fighter pilot Jo Salter to Debbie Moore, founder of Pineapple Dance Studios, the gamut of vocational success stories took to the stage to the sounds of Girls by the Sugababes. There was a lot of whooping.
And there was a lot of great advice too, including the brash and practical. Here are some sound bites:
“If you don’t like what you’re doing, get out of it. Don’t waste time” – Businesswoman Lucinda Ellery.
“Keep your own council” – The Apprentice’s Claire Young.
“Get yourself a mentor” – Mary Fitzpatrick, former Diversity Executive at Channel 4.
We got the second half of the play later when we flashed forward 30 years to see what the girls were up to. Chloe is on her lunch break and her friends have all gone off to do different things – to go to Cambridge, become a mum, get into debt – but the important thing is that they have discovered what they want along the way, and what they don’t want. As Chloe says: “We’re all sitting on different walls now but I guess the thing to do it not build one around you.”
We left the auditorium to the Sugababes again. In the foyer one girl said to her friend “That was actually quite good.” What higher praise could a teenager who has just been told to “get a job” give?
To find out more about the opportunities with NYT click here.
Image: Sophie Wardlow, Jacoba Williams, Carly-Jayne Hutchinson and Jessye Romeo.
Photography: Max Letek.