National Youth Theatre Announce Rep Season, What Lies Above and Storyfest

National Youth Theatre Announce Rep Season, What Lies Above and Storyfest
Image Credit Helen Murray

This summer sees the inaugural StoryFest held at the National Youth Theatre’s RIBA award-winning headquarters in North London. A month-long festival that demonstrates the NYT’s commitment to championing new work from emerging talent, many of whom are alumni of the NYT themselves. 

Showcasing 100 talented young creatives, some of the work will receive staged productions and others will be showcased in workshops, staged-readings and discussions. StoryFest will turn the NYT’s headquarters into a hothouse of creative development and ideas, where a diverse range of stories are explored and given the chance to be told. 

Additionally NYT will host ‘StoryFuture’ and ‘Are We Losing the Plot’ as part of the Festival. StoryFuture is a panel discussion on the future of storytelling, the opportunities and challenges around AI and what gaming and theatre have in common. ‘Are We Losing the Plot’ will explore the lack of new stories on our stages, the threats writers are facing and what the industry can do to support them. A host of leading writers got one of their early commissions from the charity including James Graham, whose first professional commision was from NYT with Tory Boyz, which premiered at the Soho Theatre in 2008. Other writers who received an early commission from NYT include: Zawe Ashton, Miriam Battye, Sarah Solemani and Jack Thorne.

Paul Roseby, CEO and Artistic Director of the NYT said: ‘I’m alarmed that there are fewer new plays on offer and that opportunities for new writers are fast becoming a relic of a bygone era. To help address this in the summer we’re serving up a festival of new drama from bold voices and new talent from around the UK. We’re dipping our toes into a trans swimming club, up to our neck in a comic revenge thriller and on the edge of hope with two neurodivergent genius twins. We're also pushing back against cuts to youth arts with an expanded NYT REP Company, short films responding to the rise in AI and summer courses in a record seven locations. British storytelling is rightly being celebrated around the world, but it starts in schools and theatres who are the bedrock of new work and without that the only story will quickly become 'there are no new stories.'

Debris Stevenson said: ‘NYT is a home for me and is a space that understands how I work. We’re at a time where I’ve really experienced risk aversion in the industry and we’re seeing fewer and fewer fresh stories, let alone fresh forms, at a time when the world is changing faster than we’ve ever seen before. I think here at National Youth Theatre this prioritisation of young people, of new ideas, of changing existing ideas, that’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep this industry alive.’

Tabby Lamb said ‘For the past decade we’ve been losing new writing spaces, whether that be theatres themselves, or scratch nights or submission windows at venues. National Youth Theatre are really spearheading the need to engage with and keep commissioning new writers. I think it’s a really vital thing for NYT to be doing both for their young people and the wider ecology of writing in the UK.’ 

Omar Khan said: ‘My NYT journey began in 2020 when I auditioned, I got in on the third try so keep trying. I made a short film with Netflix and invited Paul Roseby, the Artistic Director, to come down and watch and he liked the writing and invited me to write something. I wrote a short piece which debuted on the West End stage in NYT’s Up All Night takeover and now I’m debuting Blue Kimera at StoryFest.’

Now in its 11th year, The National Youth Theatre’s Rep company, which offers a vital free alternative to formal training, will return with two productions this autumn and a screen project in partnership with Digital Theatre Plus. This year 18 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 make up an expanded NYT Rep Company.

The company this year will present two showcase productions. The first will be Rhum and Clay’s The War of the Worlds written by Isley Lynn, Most Promising Playwright at the 2023 Evening Standard Theatre Awards, at Wilton’s Music Hall and the second Twelfth Night in a new adaptation by Ellen McDougall at the Workshop Theatre at the NYT’s North London headquarters. 

Additionally, the Rep company will present Scene Through A Lens in a continuation of NYT’s partnership with Digital Theatre+, the global video platform that provides education institutions with access to award-winning productions and educational materials'. Collectively 170 performers, 8 emerging directors and over 50 young backstage creatives have been engaged for free with the NYT REP since 2012 and performing members would have paid over £1.5m in fees to train for the equivalent time at a drama school.

The 2024 NYT REP Company are: Selorm Adonu, Stella Blakeley, Emily Casey, Talitha Christina, Luc de Freitas, Megan Keaveny, Tyler Kinghorn, Holly Masters, Laura Masters, David Olaniregun, Edward Oulton, Freya Catherine Purdie, Daniel Regan, Dominic Semwanga, Cathy Sole, Ruari Spooner, Ruby Ward and Alfie Wickham. They will be mentored by the following industry professionals: Isabel Adomakoh Young, Michelle Austin, Johnny Capps, Raymond Fearon, Alice Feetham, Henry Gilbert, Rosa Hesmondhalgh, John Hollingworth, Kane Husbands, Daniel Ings, Kate Kennedy, Darcia Martin, Fabian McCallum, Hannah Morrish Amanda Wilkin, Michael Wynne, Ashley Zhangazha and Ria Zmitrowicz. Graduates from the NYT REP company include Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, who is currently appearing as Juliet in the West End, double Scottish BAFTA winner Lauren Lyle (Karen Pirie) and BAFTA nominated Slow Horses star Sope Dirisu. 

The plays will be assistant directed by Hetty Hodgson (Co-Artistic Director of Pigfoot Theatre), who is the recipient of the 2024 Bryan Forbes Young Director’s Bursary Fund and will be mentored by Vicky Featherstone, who said: ‘It is a total privilege to be working with the brilliant NYT in developing future generations and a particular honour to be part of uncovering and supporting the next generation of directing talent.’

On Monday 3 June NYT alumni and friends are supporting the charity through Big Night Out, a fundraising event where supporters can bid to see some of the biggest shows in London’s West End and meet the stars afterwards at an exclusive reception. Lots include seeing multi award-winning actor Brian Cox in Long Day’s Journey into NightPlayer Kings starring NYT Patron Ian McKellen, People, Places and Things directed by NYT alumnus Jeremy Herrin and Cabaret starring NYT alumnus Luke Treadway. Bidding is open now at www.nyt.org.uk/big 

Finally, NYT’s Playing Up Company, which offers young people aged 19-25 who are not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) the opportunity to gain a Level 3 qualification in drama, will perform What Lies Above by NYT Associate Company Itch and Scratch. Public performances will take place alongside NYT Summer courses in Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Kent, Manchester and Newcastle and this month NYT members perform at Norfolk and Norwich Festival in partnership with HighTide and at Charleston Festival of the Garden in Baldwin vs Buckley alongside Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey.

Tickets on sale at www.nyt.org.uk/whats-on