YORK Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre is back in action…online, complete with scavenger hunts and kitchen discos.
The St Leonard’s Place building remains closed under Lockdown 3 strictures, ruling out the usual face-to-face sessions there, but here comes Zoom to lift any feelings of doom and gloom for participants in one of the North’s largest youth theatres.
Youth Theatre membership takes in 150 children and young people from across York and the surrounding areas, divided into ten age groups spanning five to 19, with each group working towards developing skills and experience in a variety of theatre disciplines.
Five groups for the older members began in November but had to be moved online after the first session in response to the second lockdown.
“These proved really successful,” says Julian Ollive, head of creative engagement. “Face-to-face contact with our young people, being in the same space, working collaboratively and creatively, is really what we’re about and what we value. Unfortunately, this new lockdown has thwarted our ability to go live but we’re going ahead with running our classes online again.”
Julian continues: “In a time of great uncertainty, we believe it’s important to begin the process of coming back to a ‘normal’, which, for us, is working directly with children and young people in our community.
“Although we would have loved to welcome back our members face to face, we’re excited by the creative challenges and opportunities that working online will bring.”
Youth Theatre director Kate Veysey says: “Offering youth theatre online gives us new opportunities to connect with the young people in different ways. We feel this is even more important at a time when they have additional pressures on them.
“The chance to connect, to work with their friends and make new ones, and be creative together, is fantastic.
“It’s been really wonderful welcoming back our young people to youth theatre, as well as some new members. In our first week back, we’ve had scavenger hunts, kitchen discos and props and costumes from everyone’s homes. It’s a joy to work together.
“Our practitioners are relishing the challenge of making our online delivery as exciting and vibrant as our live sessions have been in the past until we can safely offer these again.”
The 14 to 19 age group is rehearsing the play Tuesday for NT Connections, a digital festival that brings together groups from around the country, this year remotely. In light of the festival going online, rehearsals are applying options within this format, such as breakout rooms to work on separate scenes, using props and making sound effects from home sources to support the text.
Among those joining in the new 2021 sessions from home in York is eight-year-old Harvey Harrison, pictured above, whose mother Hayley says: “Harvey has been a member of Youth Theatre for just over two years and in that time the activity has brought him a huge amount of pleasure.
“It’s been a fantastic creative outlet for a child who is often, socially anyway, quite reserved and he has developed a new-found bravery and sense of poise. The physical thrill he gets from the performance opportunities is perfectly complemented by his quiet and growing confidence.”
In part inspired by the impact of taking the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime to community venues last month, the Theatre Royal is planning to move the Youth Theatre further out into the community once restrictions allow.
Friargate Meeting House and New Earswick Folk Hall will then host groups throughout the week, as well as the Youth Theatre continuing to work in spaces at the Theatre Royal.
“We’re excited by the prospect of continuing the reach into our community, so positively felt and received through the Travelling Pantomime,” said Julian.
Visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk for more information on joining York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and applying online for a Y card, the new youth membership scheme. The card costs £5 and provides notifications when spaces in the youth theatre become available, invitations to games sessions and tasters, discounted membership rates on tickets, events and much more.