What is your role at Farnham Maltings?
I’m the Theatre Programme and Participation Coordinator, meaning there are two sides to my job. On one side I am responsible for delivering our in-house theatre programme, which involves finding and booking touring work to perform in our theatre spaces. It also involves working with the marketing team to promote the show, developing relationships with local audiences, schools and community groups that might be interested in our upcoming shows. In my participation work, I predominately work with young people from schools and community groups. My projects are really varied and include, amongst other things, running our annual youth arts festival (this year involving 150 young people from Farnham and West Surrey), organising and overseeing our performing arts workshops and holiday activities, developing projects for schools and coordinating our youth theatre groups, The Young Company, Junior Maltings and Over the Top Youth Theatre.
What do you enjoy most about working with young people?
Their energy, their honesty and their total unpredictability.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Young Company?
The Young Company is for anyone aged 14-25 years old who are interested in theatre. There are currently 23 of them and they meet every Wednesday at Farnham Maltings from 6.30 – 8.30pm. I coordinate the group but the weekly sessions are led by professional theatre practitioner, Rebecca Lewis. It’s a really mixed group, some have been with us for years, some only started in January, some are really interested in performing as a career, some come because they enjoy drama as a hobby. It’s an open access group so there is no audition process and we invite all prospective members to attend a session for free, as a taster. We find the taster sessions are a nice way for potential members to meet the current group and see what kind of things they get up to.
What should any new member expect from the group?
New members should expect a noisy but lovely, welcoming bunch of young people. The company work on a variety of projects and performances that provide opportunities to gain experience in a wide variety of theatre styles i.e. scripted, devised, improvised, character work, puppetry, physical theatre. We run alongside the academic year with the autumn and spring terms usually spent on projects and performance work and the summer term on skills based activity and workshops with professional companies.
The Young Company are taking part in this year’s NT Connections, can you tell us more about the NT Connections Festival?
NT Connections is the annual national youth theatre festival run by the National Theatre. It sees over 200 youth theatre and school groups stage one of ten new plays, commissioned especially for the festival, by some of the best new theatre writers around. Each group performs their piece at their home venue and then again at a partner venue, alongside other local groups. The National Theatre then selects ten groups to perform each of the ten plays at National Theatre as part of the festivals finale in July.
Our partner theatre is The Capitol in Horsham and we’re performing there on Sat 9 May alongside the youth theatre group from Chichester Festival Theatre.
Can you tell us a bit more about the show they have been working on?
We’ve been working on Remote, a play by award-winning writer Stef Smith. In short, Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself. It takes place over the course of a single evening and follows seven teenagers as they make their way through a park on a seemingly normal autumn night. The story is led by a series of narrators who reveal information about characters histories, personalities and inner thoughts. It’s a great play. Stef has done a really good job of capturing the overwhelming thoughts and feelings that we all experience sometimes, and the different ways we chose to deal with them. The ranges of characters are great too. The Young Company have particularly enjoyed exploring them and how their actions and interactions evolve over the course of the story.
Remote is the first full play The Young Company have done for a while and we had quite an influx of new members in September so it’s been great to all go on that journey together. The company only meet for two hours a week so they had to work really hard to get everything together in time for our first performance, at Farnham Maltings, which we did back in February. Learning, staging and perfecting an hour long play in a total of only 32 hours is quite a feat! We’re now back in re-rehearsals and final preparations for our performance at The Capitol on Saturday.
What’s next after their performance on Saturday?
The National Theatre select one staging of each of the plays to be performed there in July, so if we get selected that’ll be next on the list. That said, there’s over 200 groups taking part and only ten groups selected so we’re aware how lucky we’d be if that happened! Alongside that we’ve got some really exciting workshops planned with theatre makers Chris Goode, Victoria Melody and Little Bulb who’ll be working with the group to explore different ways of approaching devised theatre and developing performance skills and techniques.
Fore more information on the Young Company’s performance of Remote see the Chichester Festival Theatre website.