If I Ruled The World… A Festival For Young People

March 26, 2010

The Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) are known for their innovative performances. Their commitment to the development of contemporary performance along with taking risks and giving opportunities to those who justly need it have earned them a reputation. This week however they stepped up their antics a little further by hosting a week long festival for young people, by young people, called ‘If I Rule The World… A Festival For Young People’.

It is daring, challenging and above all – it is needed.

The BAC’s work with young people has always been strong, evident in their thriving Young Peoples Theatre (YPT), yet by handing the reigns over to young people to dominate every inch and spare corner possible to young people is outstanding. The BAC has been turned into the place to be, a hotspot for young people to express themselves and be heard.

This festival is even more needed as it is linked directly to the up and coming election, giving young people a creative approach to what would happen if they had the chance to rule the world. There are huge scrolls of paper hanging from the ceiling within the foyer of the BAC. A scroll of thoughts and comments from the participants on the question of “If I Ruled The World I Would…” are splattered across every inch of it and offer an insight into the participants. From ‘Stop the troops in Afghanistan’ to ‘Lower the voting age’ – this scroll is clearly a form of expression, of an often unheard voice.

One of the rooms at the BAC has been turned into the prime ministers office and we are invited to enter, and write a letter to our ‘future Prime Minister’ about what we want, what we need, what we want to see from this man. By the end of the night, I had frantically written a letter declaring a need for less lies, less hiding of the truth, but above all an effort to be more transparent, and to try hard so that I might start to believe the hope that they have given us in their campaigns.

I left my letter proudly on the PM’s desk, and expect him to read it on his return. (Lucky for me, he might actually! All of the letters are to be taken to downing street and given to the new PM. Let’s hope they listen!)

My travels at the festival took me to watching two of the YPT groups perform the pieces that they have been working on with professional theatre makers. The first I bore witness to was the youngest of groups, aged 11-14 perform their piece Je’taime Performance. A look into what makes up a performer and how there are such a vast array of different performance areas that someone can take. The highlights for me had to be a performance artist whose love of eggs goes a little too far and ends cracking it over herself in joy.

The thing I loved most from this age group was a sense of imagination, an openness to the sublime and sheer ridiculous side to performing. From start to finish I had a grin on my face like the Cheshire Cat.

The latter part of my experiences were with the oldest of the YPT groups, ages 16-25. Their Scratch Performances took part in several different locations around the BAC which required walking in the dark depths of corridors and rooms beyond the normal public eye. I watched a mimed performance reministant of black and white films sitting in the foyer. Next taken into a claustrophobic room to watch a sinister and slightly over powering girl direct her fellow performers in a repeated sequence of love, and despair. Ordered to leave the room, I left feeling a slight shudder down my spine… and into another room to watch a game show of cards and distorted characters.

The final experience came in one of the corriders hidden around the back somewhere in the BAC. We were ushered into a completely dark holding bay with doors in front of us, we were instructed that the game would start, and we would watch. A long staircase behind the door with a girl running down and screaming. She throws herself at the door and bangs attempting to get through. We next watch as a figure slowly makes its way down the stairs. We are ushered next to line up against the wall of the stairwell to watch a truly remarkable continuation of the torment of a group of women by their captures.

The work of the YPT groups showed just how valuable they are to the BAC – their imagination and engagement in allowing an audience to step into childs play really put me on edge. Whilst I had full trust in the performers, there is something scary about a dark corridor in a theatre at nearly 10 at night being asked to close your eyes. – What a truly remarkable experience, and all made by young people.

The night becomes a celebration of being young and creative. It is empowering. It is exactly what we should be looking for in theatre. Their attitudes are free, open, expressive and joyful. We often think that young people are naive to the world, they just follow trends and enjoy being young and carefree. What If I Ruled The World… showed that actually young people have a voice, they have formed opinions, an understanding of the world, and a need not only in their political views, but also a need for a platform in theatre and the arts.

Watching Je’taime Performance and seeing the youngest of the Young Peoples Theatre group perform – it became suddenly clear. Their message was clearly shouted to us, repeated and we need to listen: “Who has the power? WE have the power!”

For more information on the festival, see the BAC website here.


January Theatre Opportunities

January 8, 2010

A new year, a new decade, and a whole host of new theatre opportunities to get yourself involved in. I can’t help but to think that a lot of the times fantastic opportunities come and go without even people knowing about them. When I was researching my January Theatre Opportunities highlights I found a series of great opportunities that literally had a day left to apply for – why aren’t they posted more on the internet, I wondered? Why haven’t I heard of them at all? How many other people miss out because they simply don’t find out about these opportunities?

Enough of the questions, here are some of my picks for January that are worth a look over for getting more actively involved in theatre.

National Youth Theatre Auditions – This organisation is truly up there with some of the best for young people who want to get involved in theatre. Whilst I have never been actively involved in NYT, their involvement in theatre sends ripples through any theatrically minded person. With a proven track record of supporting and promoting the talent of young people, it’s a wonder why any budding young thespian is not queuing up around the corner to audition.

The application date has been extended to 28th January, and with a ‘no previous experience needed’ approach to auditions anyone can get a shot at being part of nationally recognised youth theatre.

National Youth Theatre Website

Performance Innovations – A project designed to give “entrepreneurial skills and develop innovative and enterprising practice with performing arts practitioners.” This is a course aimed at graduates from performing arts courses, to enroll on the ‘Performance Innovations’ course to give a boost to your understanding of developing work, promoting it, and exploring ways of development. What makes this course so unique is that it is grounded from a practical perspective – you will create performances and work within the course, but also learn what to do with this beyond and in the ‘real world’.

Are you seeking a successful career in the Performing Arts? Are you thinking of setting up a company or similar? Then Performance Innovations might be for you.

I can’t quite do what this course does much justice, so I advise you to actually read about the course yourself here.

If it sounds like something as a graduate you are interested in – then they are holding a seminar/information event on the 18th January at the London Metropolitian University. All the details can be found on their website.

International Youth Arts Festival Submissions – Working with the Rose Theatre in Kingston this festival promotes the arts in all it’s forms coming from the younger generations. It’s great to see a festival dedicated to putting the lime light to those people who are going to be the next theatre makers and essentially our future of arts. The festival running in July 2010 is a week long, at the Rose Theatre and is sure to be a hit this summer.

Applications are open until 31st January to take part in the festival. If you’re between 0-25 years old and have a performance / event / creative flair you can apply to be part of the festival. They are also accepting applications from adults with work based for young people. There really is no restrictions for applications, and they welcome all arts related performers/performances or arts producers/managers.

Pleasance Scratch – The Pleasance Theatre possibly best known for their comedy work at the Edinburgh Festival is slowly gaining a reputation for their work in contemporary theatre and dance. Last year they were part of the SUSPENSE Festival, the first London puppetry festival in 25 years, and later in 2010 they will be the venue of choice for the Cloud Dance Festival a thrice-yearly contemporary dance platform for new and emerging dance companies. Now the Pleasance Theatre are launching a Scratch night for new and established theatre companies to try out their devised work.

Scratch nights are a great way to experiment with new work in front of an audience who understand that what they are seeing is a work in progress. Feedback is sometimes provided, so it’s a great opportunity to get involved from an audiences point of view too.

If you’re interested in performing at the Pleasance Scratch then email cassandra@pleasance.co.uk with a brief outline of the work (20 minutes worth).

Internships – A quick look at the Internships available for this month in theatre

BAC – Comms Intern – 11th January
Oval House Theatre – Theatre Intern – 8th January
Tara Arts – Press and Marketing Intern – 15th January

If you know of any other opportunities you feel are worth a mention then please either give me an email for future posts, or just leave a comment below.

Opportunities For Young People In Theatre

September 3, 2009

The Big Break

This week see’s the National Theatre in connection with Spine Breakers launching ‘The Big Break‘, a young scriptwriter competition. Aimed at 13 to 18 year olds the competition gives the chance of adapting Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, through working with top directors, writers and actors at the National Theatre by seeing your words brought to life.

Whilst this is a great opportunity for young people to get their writing skills in action leading for a fantastic opportunity at the National Theatre, it does leave me pondering what other opportunities are out there for young people/teenagers in actively engaging within the arts (or mostly theatre).

Of course the National Theatre is constantly striving to work towards promoting themselves as an establishments that works closely with Young People, and nurturing the next generation of Theatre Makers. The New Connections programme at the National Theatre actively seeks new talent from groups of schools and youth groups, leading to presenting their work in the main spaces of the National Theatre and working closely with well known writers. Sadly however, New Connections will be closing their doors for a while as they re-establish themselves within the National Theatre… so how does this gap get filled?

Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre

The Battersea Arts Centre,  (BAC) springs to mind when thinking about the opportunities for young people. Their Young Peoples Theatre (YPT) gives 12 – 25 year olds the ‘chance to experiment, create and perform original theatre on a professional stage’. Often working with notable directors and practitioners, YPT are an energetic group of young people.

Although I’ve not been to one of their shows at the BAC I watched a paneled discussion on young people within theatre and the impact upon theatre work and audiences. The YPT members present certainly reminded myself of when I was of an age at a ‘young theatre group’, bursting with the desire to perform and be in theatre. I can certainly see stars in the making from YPT.

LyricYoungCompanyAnother well established theatre working with young people comes in the form of the Lyric Hammersmith. New International Company of Live Arts (NICOLA) the Lyric Young Company were outstanding in their delivery of talented young people. Everything from poetry, monologues and dance was thrown in. There seems to be a real flare within this programme with great results.

Whilst I have highlighted a few of the well known Young Peoples Theatre programmes around London there must be other opportunities for young people dotted all over the city with relation to theatre. There still needs to be more, as most of these groups are highly sought after and over subscribed with waiting lists.

I have spoken about in the past how the future of theatre relies upon the younger generations in bringing new creativity and energy into theatres. What I would love to see is a revolution where the younger generations have their time in taking over the theatres. Often us adults get caught up in being adults and lose all our sense of play and creativity. Why not take a moment to observe the younger generations and feed that energy into theatres, or better still allow that creativity to enter theatres directly through more Young Peoples Theatre organisations.

The time for theatre in the hands of the Younger Generations is upon us, but will you allow it?

If you are under the age of 25 and interested in finding out more about getting involved in theatre, then A Younger Theatre recommends Get Into Theatre.org for more information and opportunities.

A Wider Coverage: London Theatres

June 24, 2009

I was recently asked by one of my followers on Twitter an interesting question [and for those wishing to, you can follow me here]. She had been debating about theatre’s in London that deserved a wider coverage. Her boyfriend believed that the two most in question were that of the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre.

What stuck me as rather odd was that of all the theatre’s, the two chosen were ones that already have a wide coverage, in my opinion.

The National Theatre being our country’s National theatre, the theatre that is meant to represent England and the finest theatre that we have to offer. [Here I’m sure some people are possibly thinking otherwise, and yes I would also agree at times.]

The Royal Court has certainly built it’s name into the theatre history books, with them being one of the leading theatre’s to commission and encourage new writing and who we have to thank for Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill being introduced into the theatre world.

But these theatre’s have their place within our society, within the industry and truly within our hearts, but what about other theatre’s that deserve a wider coverage and appreciation? Perhaps it would be fair to state that all theatre’s deserve more audiences, more money and more praise for the work that is put into them, but this isn’t beneficial for anyone. Therefore after careful consideration I’ve listed a few theatre’s which I believe deserve a wider audience:

Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre

The Battersea Arts Centre [BAC] – Perhaps I’m biased because I truly love this venue. Run by a vibrant team. The BAC is a beautiful grade two listed building that was once Battersea Town Hall. There are multipe rooms and chambers in which a whole variety of performerances take place. What I really appreciate about the BAC is its commitment of delierving a diverse program and scheduling. Even down to the flyers and season brochure, the BAC just screams creativity.  Finally one of the reasons why I truly am taken with this venue is the vast array of opportunities that can be grabbed. The BAC is well known for it’s Scratch Nights where new performers / writers / directors can put on small showings of their work to a willing audience to test-drive the work. Lastly, the BAC’s continual commitment in hosting numerous festivals which bring together some of the most defining contemporary work from around the country into one place: The Burst Festival and The Graduate Festival being the hightlights.

Camdens Peoples Theatre

Camdens Peoples Theatre

The Camdens People’s Theatre [CPT] – There might be a theme building in relation to the theatre’s that I am picking and this can certainly be seen between the BAC and the CPT. Contemporary, new, bold and challenging work seems to be key in these venues and the CPT is great for this. A rather unknown venue when it comes to the grand scheme of things, it features a rather delightful small black box studio. What I love is just how small this venue is, there is a real sense of excitement where new experimental work really finds it home here. The CPT is a place of opportunity for new emerging theatre companies and practitioners to find their ground and allow magic to take place. Another highlight is the Sprint Festival which is currently underway, allowing a whole months worth of experiemental theatre to take to the limelight.

Both the BAC and CPT without a doubt deserve more attention, a wider coverage of audience and appreciation amoungst industry proffessionals and spectators.

What I hope people will appreciate here is that it’s not always the big theatre’s that are funded nationally by huge organisations that deserve constant praise – it’s the smaller, less funded companies that really offer some of the most exciting theatre. These are the theatres that deserve a great appreciation and coverage.

There are many, many more, and it will be interesting to hear your views on which theatre’s you think deserve that little bit more, so do feel to comment or get in contact.

I would even say that ALL fringe based venues and theatres deserve more everything, audiences, money, and so on… So if anything, why not visit one of the small more contemporary theatre places around London? You might just find that you’ve been missing something rather special.

For out of small spaces come some big ideas.

BAC Website – http://www.bac.org.uk/

CPT Website – http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/