The National Youth Theatre (NYT) has announced full casting for its 2019 REP Season which opens this month with the London premiere of Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of Great Expectations followed by an Artificial Intelligence-inspired and female-led production of Frankenstein both at Southwark Playhouse (18 October to 30 November). A third production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will run at the Criterion Theatre (6 December to 17 January 2020) directed by Matt Harrison working in association with Kneehigh. This year’s season will also see the NYT REP stage relaxed performances for the first time and features the most number of performances ever in its seven-year history.
The 2019 company of 16 actors, aged 18-25, includes newcomers Guy Clark, Ella Dacres, Natalie Dunne, Jordan Ford Silver, Jamie Foulkes, Alice Franziska, Billy Hinchliff, Jadie Hobson, Bede Hodgkinson, Tiwalade Ibirogba Olulode, Julia Kass, Sarah Lusack, Jemima Mayala, Joseph Payne, Sonny Poon Tip, Raj Singh.
The NYT aims to provide creative opportunities for young people from social, cultural and economic backgrounds underrepresented in the arts and creative industries. The NYT REP is a free initiative inspired by the traditional repertory theatre model and was set up by Paul Roseby in 2012 to provide a much-needed, alternative to expensive formal training whilst embracing young talent to work with leading institutions culminating in three productions in London theatres. With over 40% of the company being actors of colour, the NYT continues to demonstrate its commitment to discovering Britain’s best diverse young talent. In addition to the the course being free, REP members receive bursaries to support their living costs and are assigned an industry mentor to support their creative and personal development.
Many REP alumni can now be seen across stage and screen including Seraphina Beh, who was cast in EastEnders immediately following her run and now stars in the new series of Top Boy; Sope Dirisu, since seen in the title role of the RSC’s Coriolanus, Channel 4’s Humans, Sky Atlantic’s Gangs of New York and who was recently named in this year’s h100 nominees, as was 2018 REP alumnus Isabel Adomakoh Young. Other alumni include Charles Furness who has just made his debut at the Donmar Warehouse in Appropriate, and Alice Vilanculo, seen in last year’s REP season and who received a Stage Edinburgh Award this summer for her performance in E8 at Pleasance Dome.
The 2019 NYT REP programme will include relaxed performances as part of the NYT’s wider Inclusion Programme which aims to make the charity accessible to young people, artists and audiences with disabilities. The relaxed performance for Great Expectations will take place on 18 November and for Frankenstein on 23 November.
Great Expectations, Frankenstein and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are all current set-texts, with school tickets available from £15 plus with free Q&As and educational resource packs, offering affordable access to live theatre for young groups, against a backdrop of declining drama in schools.
The 2019 NYT REP season will open with the London premiere of Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations at Southwark Playhouse. Mumba Dodwell (Diversity School Initiative, Black Ice at Theatre 503) directs a bold new version of the classic tale through a fusion of music and ensemble storytelling. This NYT production puts young people at the forefront of a Dickensian world in a coming of age tale about aspiration, love and class.
Neil Bartlett was appointed Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith in London in 1994 and has since worked for the National, the Abbey in Dublin, Bristol Old Vic, Manchester Royal Exchange, Edinburgh International, Manchester International, Brighton, Aldeburgh and Holland Festivals, the Wellcome Foundation and Tate Britain. He is the author of Mr. Clive and Mr. which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award. His published adaptations and translations for the theatre also include Molière’s The Misanthrope (Goodman, Chicago); The School for Wives (Derby Playhouse), Racine’s Bérénice (National Theatre) and Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance (National Theatre).
Mumba Dodwell comes from an acting background and has recently turned her attention to directing. After completely the Young Vic Intro to Directing Course she wants to focus on challenge stereotypes, narrative and stories of those who are not usually seen in theatre. As well making sure when these stories are shared and are done with integrity and sensitivity. She is also director of the Diversity School initiative which is an organisation that start out by students wanting to hold drama schools accountable in being inclusive and supporting those from diverse backgrounds when in training. Mumba has recently directed Black Ice by Atlanta Green Theatre503 and a rehearsed reading of Tales From The Garden by Ameera Conrad at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
The REP season continues at Southwark Playhouse in a gothic double-bill featuring an Artificial Intelligence-inspired production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, adapted by Carl Miller and directed by Emily Gray, Artistic Director of Trestle Theatre. With themes of science and technology running throughout, Frankenstein will also see all 250 audience members given virtual reality headsets during the performance to experience the world through the eyes of the Monster. The production features gender blind casting with the lead roles Victoria (Dr Frankenstein) and Shell (Frankenstein’s Monster) both to be played by women.
Carl Miller has been artistic director of the Royal Court Young People’s Theatre, an Associate Director of Birmingham Rep and Unicorn, and writer in Residence at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. He is also a member of Mercury Musical Developments’ Advanced Writers’ Lab. Previous writing credits for theatre include A Little Princess (The Other Palace), Emil and the Detective (National Theatre), The Three Musketeers (Unicorn) and an adaptation of Measure for Measure (RADA).
Emily Gray is Artistic Director of Trestle, the UKs leading mask and physical theatre company specialising in education & training. Emily runs a well-established MA & PGCE for drama teachers in partnership with Middlesex University and has become an expert in teaching mask theatre. Before joining Trestle in 2004, Emily was Artistic Director of TAG Theatre Company, Glasgow and from 1999 Associate Director at Unicorn Theatre.
A new adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,will take place at the Criterion Theatre in December as the third and final production in the 2019 REP season. Shakespeare’s most popular comedy is inventively and playfully directed by former National Theatre New Works Resident Director Matt Harrison working in association with Kneehigh and abridged by Kate Kennedy and will transport audiences to a seaside amusement park. The production and also features gender blind casting including a female Bottom and male Helena.
Matt Harrison is a director, devisor and theatre maker and was the recipient of the NYT REP Bryan Forbes Directors Bursary in 2014. Direction includes NYT’s The Fall (Southwark Playhouse), Snowbird (Tristan Bates Theatre), Tales from the Bad Years (Landor Theatre), Futures (Lost Theatre), Please Wait Patiently (National Theatre Temporary Theatre) and The Pirates of Penzance (Tabard Theatre – Nominated for ‘Best Musical Production’ & ‘Best Ensemble’ in the 2013 Off West End Awards). Assistant Director credits include Kneehigh award-winning The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and the upcoming West End production of Lady Windermere’s Fan directed by Kathy Burke.
Kate Kennedy’s writing credits include Click and Scratch Me, I Bleed at the Ophelia Dalston. She has also written works for Monologue Slam UK at Stratford Theatre Royal and Nine Days They Fell for RADA. Performer credits include Channel 4’s Catastrophe and Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange) for which she was nominated for best supporting actress at the Manchester Theatre Awards.
The NYT REP is staged as part of the NYT’s wider 2019 season which includes work commissioned and staged across the whole country and this year has seen productions take place in Bradford, Coventry, Latitude, the Edinburgh Fringe, Liverpool and surrounding community areas. The NYT will also open registrations this autumn for its annual national auditions which will take place at over 70 locations across the UK in the new year.
The NYT REP is supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and Spotlight and the production of Frankenstein is supported by Cockayne – Grants for the Arts.
This year’s REP mentors include Artistic Director’s Michelle Terry and Lynette Linton, actors Jade Anouka, Ray Fearon, John Hollingworth, Connie Hyde, Joan Iyola, Lloyd Owen, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Shane Zaza and Ashley Zhangazha, TV producers Johnny Capps and John Griffin, movement director Polly Bennett and casting directors Charlotte Sutton and Sue Needleman.