national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, July 19, 2013


Hope Springs, a RSPA Youth Theatre Production, is a gritty youth drama based on a real juvenile correctional facility spreading the message that one should never underestimate the power of the young.

Directed by Gill Brunings, the play is based on a real juvenile correctional facility called “Tranquility Bay”, ran by an American business and closed down in 2004, after news, regarding the way children were treated leaked out to the media.

Set on an idyllic island, the story follows a group of teenagers who were sent to a ‘correctional facility’ as a last resort for their bad behaviour. Their daily routine slowly unfolds as the play progresses, revealing a torturous life of discipline and obedience. A life in which the teachers dictate their every move, from what they do with their time, to what they eat, to even attempting to control what they think. Their parents originally sent them to this facility under the impression that it would make them into respectable citizens.

Events take a drastic turn for the worse when one of the pupils decides to take matters into their own hands. This sparks a rebellion reminiscent of Animal Farm. Two hapless inspectors travel to the island at just the wrong time, and it is because of these two that the terrible events of the past are revealed.

Message from the author, Richard Conlon, for the SA premiere production: “Unusually for a playwright, I can be very specific about when the inspiration for Hope Springs hit me; Decca Aitkenhead’s article The Last Resort was published in the UK’s Observer Magazine on the 29th May 2003 and by April 2004 the play was premiered. The article shocked and disturbed me and I stuck closely to the truth of what Decca had discovered during her stay at a real ‘privately run youth correction facility’. ‘The programme’ the young people live under is real, ‘observational placement’ is real, the way young people are taken by surprise and force to a facility is real, the way parents sign over 49% of their rights to their own children...all real. My writerly, imaginative input is to ask ‘what would happen if there were some kind of rebellion or revolution?. Hope Springs is my answer to that question. The play has now been staged and studied in many English-speaking countries but curiously not (as far as I know) in the USA which is the home of the privately run youth correctional facility. The play asks questions about the use and abuse of power and I hope it doesn’t hide from the fact that the issue has two sides - as one pupils says: “We aren’t saints are we? There’s something, something that each and every one of has done which our parents were worried about, worried sick about – but none of you ever put yourselves in their place, do you? ... I was argumentative, disrespectful, I was smoking, drinking, staying out and going to places where it was wiser to keep my distance – and my parents put a stop to that, because they cared.”I have never written a darker or more complex play than Hope Springs, but young casts and their directors have risen to the challenge time after time – my hope is that a tiny piece of Hope Springs stays with those young people as they emerge into adulthood. It may, at some point, be of some use to them.”

Hope Springs runs at Catalina Theatre, Wilsons Wharf, from July 24 to 28 at 19h00 with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 14h00. Tickets R80 pp. Group booking discounts are available. Booking through Computicket, (search Hope Springs) or call 086 191 5800