National Festival of Youth Theatre 2006

If it's representative, then it looks like the youth of Scotland are serious about creating good theatre

Feature by Alasdair Gillon | 13 Oct 2006

There's a packed programme at Perth's Horsecross Theatre for the second weekend in October (6th-8th) but then, what else should we expect at the 2006 National Festival of Youth Theatre? The festival is bringing in groups from all over Scotland, plus guests Kildare Youth Theatre (YT) from Ireland, to stage a feature production each during the weekend, while they enjoy background workshops, training from experts and meet performers from other groups.

Run by umbrella organisation Promote YT, the festival is only in its second year, but with eight groups and more than 300 people aged between 14 and 22 taking part, it's already the biggest annual event for youth theatre in Scotland. Of course, it's just a selection of what's out there there are several hundred youth theatre organisations in Scotland. But if it's really representative, then it looks like the youth of Scotland are serious about creating good theatre.

The line-up confirms this. The feature productions include leading playwright Gregory Burke's 'Liar', a drama about a "new boy" at school, to be performed by Fife's Behind the Scenes YT. Burke was commissioned to write the play for the (English) National Theatre's Shell Connections festival earlier this year. Another is 'Citizenship' by Mark Ravenhill (performed by Ireland's Kildare YT), but all the other productions have been devised by the participating groups themselves West Lothian YT has created an interactive street play, 'Finding Home', which it will take to the shoppers of Perth on October 7th, a Saturday afternoon; it was originally produced for an international street festival theatre in Holland. The RSAMD YouthWorks Drama team up with Brunton YT to open the festival with an ambitious offering, 'Giacomo's Circus of the Fantastic', an "electro-score musical" on a large scale with "an evil army of hip-hop clowns" and chorus of grizzly bears. Other participants include experimental theatre group Junction 25, from Glasgow's Tramway theatre, East Ayrshire YT and Toonspeak Young People's Theatre all staging productions written, directed and performed by themselves.

Tickets for shows are available now, but what the public gets to see on-stage is just part of what the festival offers behind the scenes, it's youth theatre itself that stands to benefit.

Experts on hand include the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and Borderline Theatre. They will work with the young people taking part in the intensive theatre weekend, who get the chance not only to learn but also to watch seven other groups perform.

Organiser Promote YT says that youth theatre in Scotland is "very much alive and well" and if that's true, it is something we can be glad about. Certainly, with 8000 people taking part in different theatre groups across Scotland each week, there is no shortage of interest. Promote YT was set up two years ago as a network through which groups could form links and share information, resources and training. It recognises youth theatre's important "contribution to the personal and social development of young people." But youth theatre also serves to nurture interest and talent with a mind to Scotland's future theatre scene, and Promote YT's flagship event is now a calendar fixture for Scotland's theatre professionals as well as youth amateurs.

Runs October 6-8.
Book tickets at Horsecross Theatre
0845 612 6319