A young actor gets a first break in the Harrogate Theatre Studio in a performance of Sandi Toksvig’s comedy Silver Lining.
Seventeen-year-old Amelia Braithwaite, an A-level student at Harrogate Ladies’College, has been cast as a “young, black and angry” care worker in the latest Harrogate Dramatic Society production of the play by the Great British Bake Off host.
When she read on Facebook that the company was looking to cast a young black or mixed-race actor, Amelia jumped at the chance. She auditioned for the play and landed the part.
Rehearsals for Silver Lining get under way
What the society did not know until she turned up for the audition was that Amelia came from a distinguished background.
Her Grandfather was ER Braithwaite, the Guyana-born novelist, teacher and diplomat who wrote To Sir, with Love – an autobiographical story of social discrimination subsequently turned into a film of the same name and starring Sidney Poitier.
A former World War Two RAF pilot, Amelia’s grandfather died in 2016 at the age of 104.
Given such eminent ancestry it’s hardly surprising that Amelia has high ambitions for her own future.
Her role in Silver Lining will be a major step towards focussing on a career as a professional actor.
At school and beyond she is certainly no stranger to the art and craft of stage drama, although her initial introduction to the world of theatre might have thwarted her ambitions forever.
As a young pupil of the Stagecoach school her end-of-year report put it bluntly that “Amelia wasn’t suited to acting” and a future on stage “maybe wasn’t for her”.
Unfazed by the kind of report that comes back to haunt a teacher, Amelia moved on to greater things.
She was encouraged to develop her acting ability at Brackenfield School in Harrogate and later, at Harrogate Ladies College, she auditioned for and won a drama scholarship, opening up opportunities for regular workshops, speech and drama lessons and the chance to perform monologues and duologues as well as group pieces.
Last summer she took a further step towards a full-time career.
She took part in a three-hour audition for the National Youth Theatre in London and was granted a two-week place on the theatre’s summer course.
Her role in Silver Lining will be Amelia’s performance debut outside school where her first major role was as the Artful Dodger in the college production of the musical Oliver!
She followed it with the character of John Procter in The Crucible.
“At an all-girls school there can be no gender-bias. We are not restricted to stereo-typical roles,” she said.
“In many other schools a young mixed-race woman wouldn’t be given the chance to play a middle-aged white male like John Procter who has an affair with his servant. It was a wonderful experience.”
By contrast, her character as Hope Daily, a care worker in Silver Lining, is blessed with the unenviable task of evacuating a motley collection of “old biddies” from a retirement home threatened by rising storm waters.
It’s an assignment which turns out not to be quite as easy or as straightforward as she first thought.
Audiences at the Harrogate Dramatic Society production of Silver Lining, directed by Gill McVey, will get the chance to pass their own judgment on the Stagecoach opinion of Amelia Braithwaite.
That aside, they can be sure of a huge number of laughs in this very funny play.
Silver Lining will be at Harrogate Studio Theatre between Tuesday February 26 and Saturday March 2 at 7.45 pm with a matinee on Saturday afternoon starting at 2pm
Tickets are available from the theatre box office on 01423 502116 or on-line at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk/whats- on/Silver-Lining