Powerful open night production of 'Chatroom' at the Apollo

IT was an opening night in more ways than one.

It was the first production in the Apollo Theatre, on the Castlereagh Road in east Belfast. Spotlights lit up during the afternoon, 60 chairs set out and a red ribbon across the door.

It was cut by Pauline Carville director of Enda Walsh's ‘Chatroom' who a few days ago couldn't envisage herself welcoming the audience after a car crash that made headlines news in the local press.

Her husband broadcaster and producer of Chatroom, Robin Elliott told me she always wanted a baby grand so he bought her one on Tuesday and Margaret Robb was playing away as guests mingled before going upstairs to the neat little theatre.

Black drapes, six chairs and a talented cast of young people. They were contributing to an internet chat, sitting in front of imaginary computers plugged into a space, a place where young people can talk to each other without declaring their identity.

But they each have opinions, their conversations range from Harry Potter and the sinister meaning behind the storyline. Two girls chat across cyberspace about a sexy girl in class and how Britney manipulates young woman.

Then the final couple, a girl who listens and Jim, a depressed boy who talks his tortured relationship with his mother.

Eventually the six teenagers come together to chat backwards and forwards and gradually we become aware that William and Eva have evil intent and set out to destroy Jim playing on the fact that one afternoon his father left him at the zoo.

He was just seven and it was the last time he saw his dad. William tells him that in fact no one cares about him so why should he bother to continue living, why not make a statement by killing himself on-line.

This is a powerful production about manipulation, good and evil, well played by Nathan Jones, Caleb Dickie, Lisa Stewart, Luke Vance Brown, Hannah Reilly and Chloe Gilmore.

These actors are all students studying at Apollo Arts, a repertory theatre company, training actors to work in theatre, TV and film though on the job training.

Chatroom at Apollo Theatre runs until August 3.

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