Two weeks exploring technical theatre with YV Taking Part’s Backstage Pass

This month we’ve been delighted to have 9 young Londoners at the Young Vic learning the skills and secrets of stagecraft, as part of Taking Part’s Backstage Pass programme. Find out what they got up to below. 

Backstage Pass is a free course at the Young Vic where for two weeks we invite young Londoners to take part in exploring all aspects of technical theatre. The group spends time with the YV’s immense production team having workshops in Stage Management, Lighting, Stage, Sound, Costume and Construction. These workshops culminate in a performance of an extract of a play, professionally directed and acted, which the participants have plotted, built, designed and called.  To get a full production experience, they also stay for the ‘get-out’ immediately afterwards.

As well as their time at the Young Vic, the group went on tours and trips to other London theatres – having tours and/or seeing shows in the West End, Southwark Playhouse, National Theatre, Gate, Almeida and the Roundhouse. Our thanks to the staff at these theatres for being so generous with their time!

Daniel Harrison, who coordinated the project, said “It was really great to see the group work together, as the intricacies of their chosen area of technical theatre were interwoven to create the final piece. Lighting chatted with sound over the various cues, stage management with costume over the props used. Technical theatre does not work in silo, and the group soon learnt this, as well as discovering interests and skills that they had previously not known about. Ahmed said being Stage Manager made him ‘feel like an authority figure’ and Abdul on sound told me that he’d picked up tips to use on his own grime tracks!”

Leo Wringer and Nadia Albina in Backstage Pass’ excerpt of by Alistair McDowall, directed by Finn den Hertog. Photo by Beanie Ridler 

The Backstage Pass programme gives young Londoners an understanding of and foot-in to the professional theatre scene, not just at the Young Vic, but at venues across the capital. Not only is the course free (as are all the theatre tickets), but a travel and lunch bursary are provided to ensure that those on the course have no barrier in participating.

Backstage Pass has now finished, but will be back next year. Londoners aged 18-24 are eligible to apply. For more information please email danielharrison@youngvic.org.

Intro to Theatre | Young Vic Taking Part

Our Taking Part team welcomed over 200 new young people over October half-term with a series of Intro to Theatre workshops led by some great friends of the Young Vic.

Talks and workshops with Simon Stephens, Kayode Ewumi and Tyrell Williams, Thalissa Teixeira, Ashley Walters, Jemima Robinson, Toby Clarke, Shanika Warren-Markland, Arnold Oceng and Gbolahan Obisesan, gave a mix of 14-25 year olds a first look at careers in playwriting, acting, design, helped with audition techniques and held talks.

We also held a panel discussion with the heads of acting from RADA, LAMDA, Mountview, LIPA, East 15, Rose Bruford, Central, Drama Centre and the RCS on the process and future of applying to drama schools attended by 60 young people from Lambeth and Southwark.

To find out more about the Young Vic’s opportunities for young people head to youngvic.org and follow Taking Part on twitter.

HumanMe – a response to the refugee crisis

Once a year our Young Associates have the opportunity to create a performance in response to a topic they want to explore. This year they chose to create something that represented the human side of the refugee crisis, going against what the stereotypical negative story of groups of migrants the media tends to portray. They created a multi-discipline performance entitled, HumanMe.

YV HumanMe rehearsal

The production featured three different elements; a short video documentary, a ‘Syrian lounge’ and a performance by a cast of 9 young people from our neighbourhood, directed by Diyan Zora and Fiona Sowole.

YV HumanMe rehearsal

The cast of 9 devised short scenes exploring new and different relationships forged between strangers as a result of the crisis. Many of the stories which featured were influenced from one of the participant’s own experiences living in Calais. The group focused on sharing stories from individual refugee’s perspectives in an attempt to humanise the crisis and the positive relationships that can form in difficult circumstances.

YV HumanMe rehearsal

The video documentary the Associates created featured two interviews with a 16 year old Syrian refugee who discussed his journey and his family who are now spread across Europe and Andrew Connolly, a journalist who helped contextualise the crisis and the issues and hardships refugees are facing day to day.

YA HumanMe - Syrian Lounge

The ground floor of the community art space Platform in Southwark was transformed into a Syrian styled lounge. The audience were invited to enjoy the space after the performance and to encourage them to talk about what they had watched over some Syrian food and music.

When asked why the refugee crisis was chosen one of the Young Associates, Fiona explained, ‘We wanted to do something that we cared about and something that was important to us. When we heard about the Good Chance Theatre closing down we knew that we wanted to express how important this crisis was to us. We care about what is going on and wanted that to show in our work.’

HumanMe was created by our four current Young Associates. Our associates are young people from Southwark who are learning the ropes for a year in different Young Vic departments, arming them with transferable skills for future employment. Our Young Associates are:

Kate Clement Production
Teniola Osholoye Finance and Fundraising
Fiona Sowole Taking Part and Directors Program
Helen Spincemaille Press & Marketing

‘Mesmerising and moving performance’ of Parallel Macbeth

In January audiences saw local young people take to the stage of the Clare theatre for their Young Vic debuts. The cast of 15-19 year olds were taking on Shakespeare’s Macbeth in response to Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin’s main house production.

Parallel Macbeth - Photo Helen Murray

Parallel Macbeth was performed by a group of 14 young people at the Young Vic from Jan 28th-30th. Photo by Helen Murray.

Most of the young cast were from Southwark or Lambeth London and a few are refugees who are new to the UK. The company first met director Caroline Byrne in late October 2015 and they started exploring the play and the themes of the story through workshops and movement sessions. Many of the company had never engaged with Macbeth or Shakespeare at all and most had never performed prior to this.

Parallel Macbeth Cast - Photo Helen Murray

The cast of Parallel Macbeth. Photo by Helen Murray.

Members of the cast from the Main House production of Macbeth attended the dress rehearsal of Parallel Macbeth and were blown away by what the young company had created. ‘It was an incredible performance! Feel privileged to have been there. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it’ said John Heffernan, who played Macbeth at the Young Vic. Prasanna Puwanarajah who featured as Banquo in Carrie Cracknell’s production was also very encouraging, ‘it’s as good a production of a play by Shakespeare as I’ve seen in its detail and power. Incredible, mesmerising and moving performance, filled with vivid characters moments and movements’.

Movement was key to portraying Macbeth’s downfall in this Parallel Production, similar to Cracknell’s main house version, with very little text being used in the live performance. Byrne found the creative process, ‘a joyous discovery and journey with a unique and talented group of young people’.

All of Young Vic Taking Part’s Parallel Productions are created in response to shows from the current season and are produced by professional creative teams who guide the company through workshops and rehearsals to the production, which take place in the Clare theatre.

Find out more about the work Taking Part do with young people and how you can continue to support the Young Vic’s work.

Macbeth was performed at the Young Vic from 26 Nov 2015 until 23 Jan 2016 before touring to Birmingham Rep and HOME in Manchester.

‘Shakespeare is a bit of a stirrer’ | Parallel Macbeth cast talk Shakespeare

MACBETH-PIECE

Our cast of young people from across London enjoy starting afternoon rehearsals with an impromptu rap.

Our cast of young people currently devising a response to our main house show of Macbeth spent some time talking about their experience devising with director Caroline Byrne and how incorporating choreography is changing their perspective on Shakespeare and theatre.

What are you getting out of rehearsals and the project in general?

Calum: I have been exposed to physical theatre for the first time and how you can paint a story using your body instead of using words. This is something I haven’t had experience in before and it has really opened my eyes about how you can show something without even saying anything.

Ali: This project is actually helping me work a lot easier with other people and to work within a group of completely different ages… It doesn’t matter about age or where you come from, it’s just about what you can bring to the table.

Joshua: I have been able to use my imagination to form movement and also use movement to express myself and bring my imagination to life.

What do you think about Macbeth?

Jordi: I have done Macbeth about four or five times before and what I have done is mainly scripted performance. Now that we are doing a movement piece it’s not all about learning lines, it’s using movement to create the whole performance.

Have you experienced Shakespeare before and if so, in what way/ what do you think of him?

Django: What I think is interesting is that we are creating a movement piece based on a Shakespeare play, as Shakespeare is normally based on text and is very wordy. It’s interesting because most of the movement is based on violence, death and blood but we are creating a movement piece based on the things in between; sanity and the relationships between different people.

Kieran: I think William Shakespeare is a bit of a stirrer. He makes plays to comment on what’s going on in England at the time he does that really well and he does it in an admirable way.

Jordi: William Shakespeare is a cool dude.

What are you looking forward to the most in your show?

Neuza: I am looking forward to how we have interpreted it and how we can break the Shakespeare stereotype by using movement and bring new life to Macbeth.

Leticia: I am looking forward to the performance because we see how many people think Shakespeare is boring because of the text.

What do you think of the Young Vic?

Ali: I think they are really enthusiastic about young people and try to get fresh new ideas. It’s a really good and comfortable place to be in. Every time I come here I am really welcomed and people are really nice to me. It’s a really lovely place.

Kieran: Very nice place, five out of five stars

Our Parallel Macbeth will be shared with an invited audience in January 2015. To find out more about our Parallel Macbeth production and the young people involved take a look at our blog post.

Macbeth Parallel Production

MACBETH-PIECE

The company for Parallel Macbeth. Photo by Leon Puplett.

Parallel Productions are a vital part of the work of our Taking Part team. A group of young people is given the chance to collaborate with a director (in this case, Caroline Byrne) to make their own version of one of the shows we are producing. It gives the young people involved a real insight into the play and what it is like to work in the theatre; empowering them and helping them find new aspirations.

This time we’re creating a Parallel Macbeth, in response to our main house production which opens later this month. This parallel company is exploring themes around borders, territory and statelessness by experimenting with form and using movement and music to tell the story. There are 16 of them, all aged between 14-21. Some of them are young refugees. We particularly wanted to work with young refugees in light of the ongoing migrant crisis and because we wanted to explore ideas around borders, territory and statelessness through the story of Macbeth. What stands out for all of us is the relevance of the play to what is going on in the world right now.

The young people are very talented; the singers, musicians and artists speak over 16 languages between them. Some of them have worked with the Young Vic in the past and for others it’s their first experience of participating with or going to any theatre.

Our rehearsals involve a lot of music, movement and improvisation and it feels like we’ve been working together as a company for a lot longer than a week!

Find out more about the work Taking Part do with our local community, schools and young people.

MACBETH-PIECE-4

Photo by Leon Puplett.

MACBETH-PIECE-7

Photo by Leon Puplett.

MACBETH-PIECE-2

Photo by Leon Puplett.

My life as a director – Roy Weise

Roy WeiseMy life as a director began at the age of 15 when I took charge of my group’s GCSE practical exam. We had all chosen drama for fun (myself included) and our exam piece was in an embarrassing state as we spent our rehearsal time clowning about (not in a good way) and enjoying the freedom to do whatever the hell we wanted.
It was 2 days before the exam and our teacher held us back after class (as usual – to be shouted at, given a detention or some other punishment – nothing new). But after this particular talk I was vexed. She had basically informed us that we were all going to fail and that we weren’t going to get anywhere in life with our “attitudes” and “behaviour”. I was furious. And sadly, I can’t say this was the first time I’d heard such prophesies from my teacher.

That very night I went straight home, came up with a proper narrative, scripted it, compiled a soundtrack, choreographed the blocking, borrowed costume from wardrobes around my house and drew pictures of all the lighting states and specials. I was ready to prove her and all the others wrong. And we did. We all achieved grades B and above (thank God for external examiners). But in all honesty I didn’t care about getting a B grade or about school in general because I had plans to pursue a career as a singer-stroke-rapper-stroke-celebrity chef (Don’t ask!).

4 years later (and much to my surprise) I am starting the BA Hons Directing course at Rose Bruford College. A further 3 years on and I am graduating and starting a work placement at the Young Vic which Annie Castledine had helped me to organise. Another 2 years and 4 projects on I’m the Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director on Public Enemy.

This is the largest production that I have been a part of and one of the biggest learning opportunities I’ve ever had in my professional life. The revelations are happening every day; with pennies dropping by the hour. My confidence is building and the need to trial the latest model of ‘Roy The Director’ is becoming more and more intense. I’m greatly anticipating the lessons of the tech next week and witnessing the growth of the production in previews. I’ve also been invited to assist on workshops with Laura Farnworth as part of her Jerwood award, giving further insight into other ways that the Young Vic engage with the wider community through theatre. It’s increasingly difficult in this time to get into the rehearsal room of great directors without a certain level of experience or a strong recommendation. Not everybody can take the risks that were being taken before when hiring assistants but Young Vic has given me a great credit which gives my CV a boost but more importantly the opportunity to learn from a great master.

This process has really helped me to recognise my growth as a director and as a person. I hope that in a few years I can blog about directing a production of this scale on the Young Vic’s main stage. Perhaps my old drama teacher will come along and be pleasantly surprised.

Roy Weise is Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director on Public Enemy, now playing at the Young Vic.  Learn more and book tickets at youngvic.org.