Upcoming gigs

Upcoming Gigs

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Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

The Hovel Session, York: 25th May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Depresstival Presents..., London: 3rd June

Off Yours!, Leeds: 6th June

Good Shout, Peterborough: 13th June

Supporting Jollyboat, Knaresborough: 22nd June

Brig-Aid Fundraiser, Fruit, Hull: 23rd June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Verse Matters, Sheffield, 5th July

Say Owt @ Deer Shed Festival, 21st July

Say Owt @ Great Yorkshire Fringe, York: 25th July

Working Title, Lancaster, 26th July

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I Love Youth Theatre 2014 (part 2)

Hello!  Last year I made it a goal to see as much Youth Theatre as possible across the country.  I wrote a blog about the shows I saw at the end of 2013, and you can read it here

So this year once again I put my diary aside, booked my train tickets, begged for comps, and set off to see young people making great theatre.

By the end of March, I had been fortunate enough to see a fair few shows, so I wrote a mid-year blog on the YT shows, which you can read here

A few days after writing the blog, I went to see Upstage Centre’s production of The Bloody Chamber as part of their Springboard event.  Upstage Centre are going from strength to strength, and I’m proud to announce I will be working as a Trustee in 2015 supporting them in many awesome upcoming productions.

 In April 2014, I bounded down to deepest, darkest Salisbury to see my friend Dave Orme’s production of Bedlam with Stage65 Youth Theatre.  The production had a good balance of physical ensemble scenes whilst giving breathing space for actors to play with the 18th century characters.  The sense of uneasy background ensemble spying and sneaking helped portray this world of gossip, rumour, mystery and the inevitable question:  Who really belongs in the asylum?

Next up I visited the midlands, and Nottingham Playhouse’s All Quiet On The Western Front directed by Allie Spencer.  Such a dark, complex and weighty text was handled brilliantly by this cast who managed to find all the moments of humour and melancholy, occasionally reminding us these soldiers were no more than children through clever theatrical moments and great playful use of staging.

Back on my hometurf of York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre, The Genius directed by Natalie Quatermass and A Thousand Reasons Not To Fly directed by Jenna Drury were both marvellous inventive and fun performances from the 8-11s.  A feast of fun characters and wacky moments, The  Genius was brilliantly nutty and A Thousand Reasons Not To Fly had a very emotionally charged ending that genuinely touched the audience’s hearts, perfect proof of the ability of youth theatre to move.

In July, I also saw Harrogate Youth Theatre’s similar age range perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Jonquil Claughan.  This was my own adaptation of the classic play, drawing on lots of poetry and updating and streamlining the language whilst keeping the magic, wonder and humour.  The cast (as well as a local school who also used a version I adapted) kept all those elements of ensemble creating the magical world of the fairies and the woods.  I loved adapting this Shakespeare, and realised how incredibly easy it is to find humour still within the Mechanicals and their little play, and the wonderment of the fairy kingdom.  If anyone is interested in looking at my adaptations, please just get in touch.

Carriageworks Young Theatre Makers presented Extraordinary in July directed by Ruth Cooper, an original piece of work drawing ideas from an enormous cast which spanned the ancient Greeks, World War 2 and into the distant future.  Ingeniously telling the story of various child geniuses (genei?) it allowed for a number of connected scenes and connected characters all telling their own stories in their own worlds, but part of a larger picture, handled well by the group all with their eyes fixed on the central theme:  suspicion of the extraordinary.

I travelled to Derby to see the double-bill of The Willow Pattern and The Chrysalis.  Emma Waslin’s The Willow Pattern found those charming moments of humour, but also the tension within the ancient tale.  Visually the show was full of colour and vibrant images.  In contrast, Sarah Brigham’s The Chrysalides was full of tortured characters exploring the bleakness of this zealous dystopian future.  Both casts embraced their challenge of performing on the main stage of Derby Theatre with gusto, energy and a commitment to telling two great stories.

Back to Nottingham in August, I killed two birds with one stone and managed to catch Equus before hitting Nottingham Queer Punk Fest. Sarah Stephen’s cast were highly professional in their dissection of this deep and rich play, drawing on fleshed-out characters but an also a very haunting and brutal atmosphere, at times intense, and often unsettling.  Nottingham Playhouse have suffered at the hands of Labour City Council cutting funding, and I hope they can still continue the good work for their Youth Theatre in some capacity, who always produce excellent quality work.

In November, I managed to catch York Youth Theatre once again, this time with their 16+ groups performing Brecht-inspired pieces, Mr Puntila & His Man Matti and The Circle of Chalk.

Mr Puntila & His Man Matti (again directed by Natalie Quatermass) opened with a visceral experience which saw the audience avalanched by an onslaught of snotty, righteous, youthful anger, all shouting for occupations, getting rid of the rich and the injustices of capitalism.

But Mr Puntila & His Man Matti also showcased hilarious comedy moments; with a sea-sickeningly swaying distorting back-and-forth charm it left the audience feeling drowned in Puntila’s drunken world of swagger and ruse.  Knowing looks, snooty jibes and brash songs all peppered this capital play.

I was incredible honoured to be asked to write The Circle of Chalk for York Youth Theatre.  Inspired by Brecht’s version, but also the original ancient Chinese crime drama, I poured a lot into this production.  I read up on the polices and arguments of various nationalist organisations, researched the situation in the Ukraine and Palestine and wrapped the production up in the poetic story-telling I’ve learned from both my own spoken word gigs and Shakespeare.

(me and Natalie basking in the fame of a MASSIVE poster)

Using collaborative story-telling, Julian Ollive’s The Circle of Chalk cast wove an intense story rich with a range of flawed, funny, charismatic, despicable and loveable characters.  Their inventive ensemble work gave every moment a thousand shrewd angles, and their unflinching questions on the nature of nation rippled through the audience.

I have also had the pleasure of work with The Lawrence Batley Young Company this year, working with a very enthusiastic bunch of young people looking at snippets of Shakespeare.   I will be working with them next year, as well as writing another piece for Harrogate Youth Theatre and, as always, looking for commissions or freelance work.  So if you want to read any of my scripts so far, take a look at my work or get in touch for whatever reason, just drop me an email on henrythepoet@btinternet.com

Thanks to everyone who supplied me with a comp, thanks to everyone for the invites, thanks to Harrogate Theatre and York Theatre Royal for the commissions, and thanks to all the directors and casts for fantastic work.

Have a great 2015!  More great Youth Theatre please!

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