Energy and Honesty in Youth Theatre

For the last 7 years, The Royal Lyceum Theatre has hosted the National Youth Theatre’s Connections Festival, featuring 10 plays specially commissioned for the event which includes youth theatres from all over Britain.

This year, the National Theatre has taken a year out, so the Lyceum decided they would have a go at organising their own version. The recent Connect Festival featured youth theatres mainly from the Central Belt of Scotland, who performed plays of their own choosing, two or three a night.

youth theatre vert The Lyceum’s own Youth Theatre performed on the last two nights, the senior group on Friday (pictured are a couple of Douglas Robertson’s shots from Mugged, by Andrew Payne and directed by Natalie Ibu) and 3 junior groups on Saturday. The popularity of the Youth Theatre is staggering, with around 120 seniors (aged 14-18), almost 100 juniors (aged 11-13) a further 60 who attend ‘mini and play’ sessions. There’s even a Playtime group for 2-4 year olds, who can come along with their parents.

“We take child protection issues very seriously,” explained co-ordinator John Glancy “and always have 2 adults around, a tutor and an assistant, and we try to keep to a ratio of 1:15. Although it’s quite a big group, the children have chosen to come along so there are seldom disciplinary issues.”

John himself was an original member from 1999-2002, inspired by a visit to his school. He attended the Arts International Drama School in York and trained as an actor. While waiting for a job, he was offered a post at the Lyceum as a workshop assistant, but 5 years later is now project manager.

Other previous members of the LYT have gone on to become practitioners, such as technicians and actors. Kirsty Mackay, who recently played Wendy in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Peter Pan, is one such former member. “They learn about themselves, they learn to trust their own judgement, even when they go into other fields,” says John.

Should you go and watch a Youth Theatre production? We’ve all been to productions where the cast had a great time but the audience should have been paid to attend. Actors could potentially be dire! They are clearly not going to be as experienced as their professional counterparts but there is an energy and an integrity about their performances which is truly engaging. There are no hidden agendas with these youngsters.

“At the heart of their performances is the ensemble,” John says. “It’s a team effort. We are not trying to produce solo stars of the future, just vibrant, exciting, dynamic, theatre. And if you think they can’t do moving, emotional pieces, you should have seen Castlebrae High’s Hard Bare Rock Youth Theatre from Craigmillar. Their play Blackout dealt with the kind of social issues they have to face daily and it was emotional and moving.”

Next up for the Youth Theatre will be Summer on Stage, a 3 week course culminating in 2 performances on stage. The senior group will be working on A Vampire Story, by Moira Buffini and the junior group will study and perform The Musicians by Patrick Marber, both plays from the Connections portfolio, which you will be able to see on 24th July.

“We look to give young people – not just ours, it’s open to non members as well – an authentic experience of the theatre,” John explains.

There are also technical courses for those who don’t want to be in front of the spotlights, involving technical and mechanical aspects of stage craft and one on costume and stage make up.

An inclusive policy means that there are not usually auditions, but there is a waiting list and you do have to pay £75 or £85 (depending on age) per term. Easter and Summer workshops are open to non members. There’s lots of information on the website. The best way to find out what’s happening is to sign up here for the mailing list.

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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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