Riley is relishing Christmas on the Chichester Festival Theatre stage

Will it wreck his Christmas?

Not a bit of it. 16-year-old Riley Stroud is relishing the massive commitment and the even bigger opportunities which Sleeping Beauty represents at Chichester Festival Theatre this festive season.

Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Helen Murray

Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Helen Murray

Presented by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, the show is their 2018 Christmas production, running from December 15-30.

“My parents are my personal taxi-drivers, but they are beyond supportive,” says Riley. “They know it is something that I really enjoy, and I don’t see it as sacrificing my Christmas at all. I see it as something really enriching, something that nurtures the soul. It is so much fun and I am so happy doing it.”

Riley has been a member of the youth theatre for just under a year and became involved when a friend told him about it.

“I hadn’t done anything like this before, but I had always been interested, but there weren’t really any opportunities at my school,” says Riley, who is now studying for a BTEC in acting at Chichester College: “And this is great now. There is so much overlap in rehearsals with the acting that I am doing in college. I think the two things really go hand in hand.”

Riley is confident he has found the thing that really makes him tick.

“When you are younger, you are wanting to find out what you are good at. I tried football and I tried every sport and hobby and things like scouts, and I was just completely useless. I have discovered the only two things that I am any good at are waiting at tables and acting!

“With acting, the joy for me is when there is a message in the show and you are part of that. I love the idea of entertaining, and I never get nervous before it. I only ever get nervous afterwards when I am thinking ‘Was that any good?’

“I have not quite figured it out yet, but I definitely want to act professionally. I really think that Chichester Festival Theatre has helped a lot in terms of the auditions and the fact that there are so many opportunities. I have to stay at college another year, possibly two and then I will start applying.”

Already Riley has got his strategy worked out: “Everybody wants to act, but I like to pretend that I am the best in the room. I am not a dancer, but when I am dancing I tell myself that I am good at it!”

Riley recognises that self-belief will be a great way of negotiating the challenges ahead. For the moment, that means playing the part of a forest creature in Sleeping Beauty.

It’s the well-known story... with a twist.

A princess under a fairy’s curse pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for a hundred years, waiting to be woken by a prince’s kiss.

But hold on a moment. There’s a distinctly different slant to this story.

The princess is beautiful and spirited but there are two princes and a lot of threatening thorns.

As for the fairy who caused all the trouble in the first place – well, putting things right isn’t as simple as casting another spell.

“The forest creatures are the creatures that really bring the magic to the show.

“When you are on stage, there is that element of fantasy that you have got to make real.”

As for the show itself: “I don’t think it is going to be what people are expecting, but in a really good way. It is just telling the story in a way that is not like any other way you will have seen. I think it is going to be incredible.”

Tickets from the CFT.

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