Interview: Northern Youth Theatre Project | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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NYTP. or the Northern Youth Theatre Project as they are formally known, was founded seven years ago in Newcastle and welcomes young people of all abilities and disabilities to participate and work together to create high-quality pieces of theatre. On Sunday 14th July at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle they will be presenting an exclusive preview of excerpts from the world premiere of our new version of Alice Birch’s [BLANK] before taking the show up to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. This production is a challenging collection of loosely related scenes telling stories of life when adults feel absent from it. We had a quick catch up with NYTP to find out more ahead of this performance.

Why did you choose to adapt Alice Birch’s production, BLANK?
We really enjoyed working on [BLANK] as part of the National Theatre’s Connections festival in 2018. It was written as a co-commission for the National Theatre and Clean Break (a theatre company working with women in the criminal justice system), and the themes are quite challenging. Alice wrote a set of 50 scenes for NT Connections, with certain “rules” about how to put them together, so we had a massive amount of creative freedom in how we selected and interpreted the scenes we used. It’s hard to describe the piece – it’s definitely not a traditional narrative play. Alice has generously waived her performance fee for us and asked that we credit NYTP alongside her, to reflect the shared collaborative input between writer and performers which created the show.

What is the difference between your adaptation of the play BLANK and original production? 
This production is a new version of [BLANK] which we’re putting together for the Fringe in August. It’s hard to say how it differs from the set of scenes Alice originally provided because there was just so much variety and scope in them to make something truly unique. Our version focuses less on the criminal justice system specifically and more on the loneliness and chaos experienced by the young characters in a world where adults feel absent, for whatever reason – and sometimes neglectful or even dangerous.
What are you hoping people take away from watching the play?
We hope people just relax and enjoy the experience and don’t try too hard to “understand” it – some of the scenes may seem related, some of the characters repeated – others will not. As we’ve worked on making this we’ve felt that there are so many different themes and messages in the play – about the impact of crime, poverty, abuse on young people. We hope it makes people think about the importance of adults in young people’s lives, about the fragility of relationships and the importance of friendship!

The production features original music written by the cast. Can you tell us more about that?
We’ve got a range of different original music as part of the show – Elkie Robson, one of our talented cast, performs her own song as part of a scene, Empty Bottle. It’s a young person’s perspective on the negative impact of alcohol abuse.

We’re lucky to have former NYTP member and musician, Zak Younger Banks, accompanying her on guitar, and we’re also using some of Zak’s beautiful songs and ambient compositions between scenes and before and after the show.

Elkie and Zak will each be performing a live set as part of our preview event on 14th July which we’re very excited about! Show and a gig all on the same night! 

What is next for the NYTP after the performance at Star & Shadow Cinema on Sunday 14th July?
 Well we’re heading up to Edinburgh in August to perform there for a week 19th-24th August (Venue 38, Studio@SpaceTriplex) – and the show is currently a work-in-progress so lots of rehearsals! Also, designing our lighting for Edinburgh with our tech director. Fundraising! Several cast members have been taking part in NCS over the past few weeks so getting everyone together to rehearse has not been easy! We’re really excited to take this show to the biggest international arts festival in the world and will be working hard to ensure it’s the best we can make it. We don’t audition or charge fees and have no regular funding. We’re grateful to have support from Hotspur School where we use a room to have regular sessions during term time, and it’s great to be holding this preview event at Star and Shadow in the heart of the community, but everything we do we have to raise funds to cover.

You can buy tickets for our Edinburgh shows from the Fringe Box Office already – so go ahead and give our pre-sales a bit of a boost if you can make it up there! We’re on at 5.05 pm so it’s easy to do in a day from Newcastle. 

NB Should mention that while [BLANK] was written for young people to perform, it contains strong language and themes some people may find upsetting.

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