Bright. Young. Things. by Georgia Christou

Georgia Christou, Sam George
Saturday, October 1, 2022

Each issue of D&T we bring you a teacher or academic's guide to a play for study with your students. This issue, Sam George from Derby Theatre introduces Christou's Bright. Young. Things.

 Derby Theatre's production of Bright. Young. Things.
Derby Theatre's production of Bright. Young. Things.

Graeme Braidwood

Our performance of Bright. Young. Things. took place in Derby Theatre's 2022 Youth Theatre summer season. Chosen by one of our groups for 11 to 14-year-olds, who remarked on its beautiful writing, relatable characters and high potential for comedy, it was performed on 17 and 18 June to a full house in the Derby Theatre studio.


The play follows a group of six young people who are selected to be on a reality show, where teenage contestants are pitted head-to-head to determine the smartest and brightest of the lot. Carefully stage managed by the ominous presence of the all-knowing, all-seeing Producers, and their beleaguered assistant Frankie, the contestants soon discover that the ‘reality’ show is hardly a ‘reality’ at all. Rochelle, catapulted into the talent show at the last minute, eventually spearheads a rebellion where the teenagers band together to accept and embrace their differences, overthrowing the system that has oppressed them.


Throughout the production, we explored the themes of difference and artifice, which were especially present in the design. The stage was set in the style of a game show, with flashing LED batons and garish pink, purple and green lighting dominating the space, while more intimate moments between the contestants would be contrasted by subtle, sombre tones. Our design was collaboratively created by young people and three professional designers: Eleanor Ferguson (set and costume), Lucy James (sound and composition) and David Coull (lighting).

The set was given a unique brief: it was designed with minimal waste in mind. It was remounted across six different youth theatre productions over the course of the summer run. The costumes were bright, bold and unique, drawing striking visual difference between each character and developed from the group's own ideas.


Our actors were encouraged to find layers in their characters, exploring the public and private sides of each character. The young performers enjoyed the idea of manipulation in rehearsals, particularly the ways their ‘public’ personas morph – and how this is overly simplified into stereotypes and catchphrases in the format of the game show. In one particular sequence, Sheara (played by Lizzie), who has always been joined at the hip and identically clothed to her twin sister Jasmine, decides to throw off her shackles and become her own person.

We staged this through a physical sequence where an ensemble of performers helped her to style herself as a gothic rock star, her face smeared with black lipstick and eyeshadow. This showed a striking and exciting change as her character takes a huge leap towards self-determination, which was a journey we enjoyed exploring throughout. This moment also gets us to the heart of what is great about Bright. Young. Things. – it's loads of fun! The Presenters set the tone and engage with the audience, the teenagers are allowed more naturalistic characterisation, while the Producers demonstrate the themes of control and manipulation in a way that is arresting, comedic and thrilling.

14-year-old Crina who played the part of a ‘Producer’, said: ‘Bright. Young. Things. is comedic and goofy, but at the same time there's a mysterious and darkness hiding behind the text because of the interesting Producer characters. I played one of the many Producers in the performance, and I didn't struggle to get into the bossy, condescending character. The design process is always really fun, seeing everything come together. Personally, I loved my costume – it was a normal suit, but once I put it on to become a Producer, the character became more attainable. Bright. Young. Things. was a really fun performance and a lovely experience.’

We were privileged to work on Bright. Young. Things. It was an exciting and enriching experience for all the young people and creatives involved. What makes this play stand out – and why I'd recommend it highly as a production to stage – is just how adaptable it is. The characters of the Producers and Presenters are not only fun, but they also give rich material for ensemble work, allowing you to stage the play for a group sized anywhere from about eight to 30 actors. The play's themes are resonant, the style is fun and exciting, and it gives any group fantastic scope to play, explore and make the text their own.

Sam George is a young artist and participation producer at Derby Theatre.