Do you choose everything you are or does it choose you?
Evan Placey's Girls Like That is an ensemble play exploring the pressures on young people today in the wake of advancing technology. It was specially commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Theatre Royal Plymouth. It was first performed by The Young REP as part of The Young Rep Festival at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham, on 12 July 2013; the West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre at the Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, on 18 July 2013; and by the Theatre Royal Plymouth Young Company at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, on 14 August 2013.
When a naked photograph of schoolgirl Scarlett goes viral, rumours spread across smartphones like wildfire and her reputation becomes toxic, threatening to shatter the fragile unity of the girls she has grown up with. But how long can Scarlett remain silent? And why isn't it the same for boys? Using music and dance sequences, and featuring shifts in time to explore the evolution of feminist consciousness, the play focuses on adolescent female friendship in the present day and its fragility in the face of societal and cultural pressures.
The premiere productions were directed by Daniel Tyler (Birmingham Rep), Gemma Woffinden (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Beth Shouler (Theatre Royal, Plymouth).
In January 2014, members of the West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre travelled to Westminster to perform an extract from the play in Parliament as part of the launch of YoungMinds Vs, a new children’s mental health campaign.
The play was revived at the Unicorn Theatre, London, on 6 November 2014 in a co-production by the Unicorn and Synergy Theatre, directed by Esther Baker and designed by Katy McPhee.
The play was awarded Best Play for Young Audiences at the 2015 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards.
A young girl falls through a hole in her jumper into a fantastical world where nothing is quite what it seems. By confronting tyrants, solving riddles and befriending the downtrodden, she finally gets back home.
A comedy for all the family that blends the Brothers Grimm folk tale with elements of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Once upon a time there was a boy called Dummling and everyone believed he was stupid just because of his name. He lived in a poor cottage in the woods with his mother and brother. One day he meets an old man in the woods and shares his humble supper with him. The man, is in fact the King of the fairies and a direct descendant of Oberon. He and his Queen, Titania need to get a worthy and humane king on the throne of the blighted land in which they live, a king who will save the forest in which the fairies live from destruction. The Fairy King gives Dummling good luck in the form of a magical golden goose. When he takes it home his mother and brother try to take it from him but once they touch the goose they find they cannot let go and what’s more they find that they cannot stop running. Run they must and run they do all the way to the palace where, as it chances, there resides the very mirror of their own family – but posh. The King Conrad has two daughters, Dajona who won’t laugh and Birgit who won’t stop. The King has sent out a proclamation that whoever makes his daughter laugh can have her hand in marriage, and thus be in line for the throne. When Dajona sees the Golden Goose and the people stuck to it, running for all they are worth she bursts out laughing. The King is thrilled until he discovers that the boy who made her laugh is called Dummling and is a peasant. He sends Dummling on two ridiculous quests but Dummling, with the help of the fairy kingdom succeeds in fulfilling both and thus – eventually becomes King thus completing a bloodless revolution and saving the Fairy Kingdom.
Considers Victorian values and how they affect young women today.
Evan Placey's Holloway Jones is a play about a teenage girl in foster care. It was commissioned and produced by Synergy Theatre Project, and was first performed at the Unicorn Theatre, London, on 2 November 2011, following a tour to schools and pupil referral units. It won the 2012 Brian Way Award for Best Play for Young People.
The play is set primarily in London, between 2008 and 2012. Holloway Jones is sixteen, her Mum is in prison and she is in foster care. Despite all this, her life is on track. She has a goal and is training hard for a place in the BMX Olympic Talent Team. But when she falls for charming, generous bad boy Avery, things start to unravel fast. Suddenly she’s in too deep, involved in the kind of joint enterprise that it is very hard to walk away from.
The Synergy production was directed by Esther Baker and designed by Katy McPhee. It was performed by Danielle Vitalis (as Holloway Jones), Doreene Blackstock, Mandeep Dhillon, Holli Dempsey, Femi Wilhelm, Frank Prosper and Karl Smith.
Jack Thorne's Junkyard is a play, with music by Stephen Warbeck, about the creation of a playground out of junk. It was first performed at Bristol Old Vic Theatre on 2 March 2017 (previews from 24 February), in a co-production between Headlong, Bristol Old Vic, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd.
The play's action takes place in a playground in Lockleaze, Bristol, in 1979. A group of kids from a Bristol school, seen as misfits and disregarded simply for coming from troubled backgrounds, are invited by a man named Rick to join him in building an adventure playground on a plot the headmaster has earmarked for the new maths block. Initially suspicious of the project, they nonetheless hang about watching Rick at work, feigning lack of interest but making bonds. By the end of the summer, they would die to defend the playground, and one of them almost does.
In an Introduction to the published script, Jack Thorne writes that the play was inspired by his own father and the 'junk playground he built with some kids at Lockleaze School in Bristol... But Junkyard is not about my dad... Rather,
it’s an attempt to walk the high wire he walked – and to tell the truth about the type of kids who built these playgrounds, the places they come from, the lives they lead.'
The premiere production was directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Chiara Stephenson. It was performed by Scarlett Brookes, Calum Callaghan (as Rick), Josef Davies, Erin Doherty, Kevin McMonagle, Enyi Okoronkwo, Seyi Omooba, Lisa Palfrey, Jack Riddiford and Ciaran Alexander Stewart
Heartwarming and humorous, Kindness sensitively captures the reality of children's feelings as they navigate the small and large events in their world. From Hurricane Katrina to everyday encounters in the school hallway, the play offers an unforgettable lesson in compassion.
For Layla, every day is a battleground. The pay gap, the thigh gap, over-sexed pop and selfies that are photoshopped – they’re just part of the world she lives in.
But that world is about to change. While breaking out of her bedroom – and with drama, comedy, poetry and music as her weapons – Layla breaks down and makes sense of the realities, difficulties and absurdities of teenage life in the UK today.
Collected from a bespoke national survey, the voices of a thousand UK teens are brought to life in Layla. Their ambitions, concerns, role-models and regrets are woven together by award-winning Sabrina Mahfouz and theatre company Theatre Centre, offering a hard-hitting, yet hopeful, story.
Silva Semerciyan's The Light Burns Blue is a play inspired by the true story of the Cottingley Fairies: the case of two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, who in 1917, having purportedly taken photographs of real fairies near their home in Cottingley, Yorkshire, were invited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) to speak at a conference in London about their supernatural encounters.
The play was commissioned by Tonic Theatre in partnership with Nick Hern Books as part of Platform, an initiative comprising a series of big-cast plays with predominantly or all-female casts, written specifically for performance by school, college and youth-theatre groups, with the aim of addressing gender imbalance and inequality in theatre.
The Light Burns Blue was published on 11 June 2015, along with two other plays inaugurating the Platform series: by This Changes Everything by Joel Horwood and Second Person Narrative by Jemma Kennedy.
The play's action takes place over the summer of 1917 in the village of Cottingley and in London. The scenes flash back and forth between Cottingley around the time when the photographs were taken, and the London hotel where excited supporters have gathered to hear for themselves about the supposed evidence for another world. Winifred, a sceptical reporter from a local newspaper, has disguised herself as an adolescent girl in order to infiltrate the Cottingley coterie, and is now about to expose Elsie and Frances as frauds. But as she looks at the facts, she begins to think there's more to Elsie's story than a simple hoax.
The play was first performed at the Bristol Old Vic on 15 April 2015 in a production directed by Lisa Gregan and designed by Max Johns.
A term used since the Second World War to denote the creative use of young people’s spare time through the medium of theatre and drama. The activity has grown out of schools drama, enlightened amateur theatre and community drama initiatives, but is not now tied to any single institutional allegiance and involves theatrical performances created by many different groupings of young people. In 1999 there were more than 700 youth theatre groups in the United Kingdom. Those aged between 11 and 20 are the most active participants but the age range has extended to cover those from 5 to 30 years and older. Nearly all work with groups is undertaken on a full or part-time basis by leaders from a wide range of professional backgrounds, primarily education, theatre and youth work.
In the summer of 1956 Michael Croft undertook a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V with a group of former pupils from Alleyn’s School, south London, where he had been teaching. Youth theatre’s first major public manifestation in Britain was thus an emancipation of the school play whose tradition had been long but fairly conservative. Croft’s project grew in scope and reputation, despite many struggles for official recognition and funding, and was in 1961 given the title National Youth Theatre. Croft’s initiative inspired a number of developments in youth theatre during the following two decades, including the annual National Festival of Youth Theatre, which lasted from 1977 to 1986. At the National Festival in 1982 the initiative was taken to set up a National Association of Youth Theatres, and this body has continued to act as a support and development agency for youth theatre work since that date. In the 1970s County Youth Theatres were set up by local education authorities in places like Leicestershire and Devon, and a number of regional repertory theatres established their own groups. The momentum of youth theatre development was picked up in the 1980s by local government departments concerned with recreation and in the 1990s by national funding agencies as a medium for youth arts work. Many groups have set up independently, and youth theatre continues to owe its rather ad hoc growth to a number of committed and hardworking individuals. There has always been an awareness, however, that through youth theatre work young people’s performances provide a radical renewal of social perspective both for the participants and for the communities to which they belong.
Youth theatre advances in line with the differing social and cultural emphases of individual countries. Throughout mainland Europe, where there are huge discrepancies in support and development, it enjoys a wide variety of cultural affiliations. In Austria and Finland, for example, it has evolved out of a strong amateur theatre tradition with the help of supportive youth work. Danish youth theatre has also received its greatest encouragement from youth work and the great diversity of the educational system, and plays an important role in social education and theatrical experimentation. In Portugal, a similar tradition has been recovered since the return to civilian government in 1974, which has lent a strong socio-cultural dimension to the work. In France and Malta, by contrast, there are strong links with formal education, particularly drama training, and in the Netherlands much work is centred on professional theatre companies. Whether youth theatre development is sparse, as in Flanders, or strong and well-supported, as in Germany, it is generally felt that the work is given insufficient public support and status.
There are strong developments in the United States and in India and south-east Asia, where subsidized professional theatre is less common, and youth theatre forms part of a strong community drama movement. In Australia an impressive tradition of innovation and social relevance has developed out of the creative coalition of young performers and professional practitioners.
Despite the lack of a worldwide organization, a spirit of internationalism has been greatly advanced by the increasing number of international exchange visits between groups. In 1982 the first European Children’s Theatre Encounter was held in Belgium, and in 1987 young people from 19 European countries attended the first European Youth Theatre Encounter in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Britain. Both events have continued to be hosted by European countries on a regular basis in the 1990s.
Youth theatre in the UK continues to develop, thanks mainly to the work of the National Association. It established the Big Youth Theatre Festival in 1994 as a major focus of growth for the medium, and in 2000 the Festival attracted 800 participants from seven countries to a greenfield site in the south of England. Increasing numbers of groups experiment with the language of performance and across art forms to produce hybrid work which is ‘postmodern’ in spirit. History may characterize youth theatre by such radicalism, see it as one creative element in a leisure-based culture or acknowledge its enduring value as the best of youth work; in any event, thanks to the participation of generations of young people, its effects will be felt for many decades and in many cultures.
from Roger Hill, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2011).