Youth Theatre Now

by Asako Maruoka /
Asako Maruoka's picture
Oct 03, 2012 / 0 comments

Mention youth theatre to most people, even theatre lovers, and a vision of interminable, earnest productions of "classics" comes to mind. Many people perceive youth theatre as a necessary evil, useful for training promising young actors but usually uninteresting to anyone without a relative in the cast. If this stereotype were ever true, which is debatable, it isn't any more. Today's youth theatre is vibrant, innovative and unafraid to take risks.


The UK's leading exponent of youth theatre, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the National Youth Theatre. Founded in 1956, the NYT teaches courses not only in the capital but all across the UK, ranging from dramatic techniques to practical career skills such as dealing with auditions. Technical subjects like lighting, set design and costumes are also covered, as well as writing; the NYT stages not only classics but original works by Britain's best young playwrights. Members of the National Youth Theatre also recently appeared in the welcoming ceremonies for athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.



Although the National Youth Theatre is Britain's largest such organisation, it's far from the only one. Youth theatre organisations exist all over the country, either as part of larger theatre groups or independently. Theatres as small as the Herne Bay Little Theatre, which seats no more than 72, have their own theatre groups for young people. In contrast to the cosy stereotype of small-town theatres, these groups perform not only traditional favourites but innovative new works and contemporary adaptations of classics.




Many youth theatre groups are associated with the National Association of Youth Theatres, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to raise awareness of youth theatre, get more young people involved in theatre and help improve the quality of youth theatre groups around the country.




One of Britain's foremost youth theatre groups is the Priory Youth Theatre, based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Priory Youth Theatre is associated with the Priory Theatre, a small theatre originally converted from a disused chapel shortly after the Second World War.




The Priory Youth Theatre became an organisation distinct from the main Priory theatre company in 1967; prior to that point, young actors had been involved in the company, but without a separate company. Unlike the National Youth Theatre, which focuses on performers between the ages of 17 and 21, Priory Youth Theatre includes very young performers, with members ranging from 8 to 18. Every year, the Priory Youth Theatre stages one or more productions, typically one major run of performances and a number of smaller events to showcase work in development. Classes, workshops and rehearsals continue throughout the year.




Kenilworth is also known for the ruins of Kenilworth Castle and Kenilworth Abbey; the town is only a short distance from restaurants, shops, and fun things to do.