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National youth theatre festival returns to Stratford

PUBLISHED: 17:30 03 May 2016

A performance at last year's festival  (Pic: Richard Davenport)

A performance at last year's festival (Pic: Richard Davenport)

Richard Davenport

The biggest youth theatre festival on the planet is returning to Stratford for a second year.

Actor and drama teacher Suzann McLean will direct Theatre Royal Stratford East’s National Theatre Company at their home venue, as they put on Blackout by Davey Anderson.

Performing on Wednesday, May 11, and Saturday, May 14, the group are one of nine youth groups treading the boards as part of the five-day National Theatre Connections Festival.

But not content with the challenges of putting on her own production, Suzann is also coordinating the entire Theatre Royal arm of the nationwide extravaganza.

“It’s the biggest celebration of theatre for and by and with young people,” the 42-year-old explained.

“The festival has been running for a number of years but this is the biggest one that’s ever been put on, so it’s really exciting to be involved.

“It’s a lovely experience because I get to see a number of different groups and see how they interpret different plays and work together in their own ways.”

Inspired by the true story of a young offender from Glasgow who had committed a violent crime, Blackout is a hard-hitting play about getting bullied, fighting back, losing everything and finding your way again.

Only using a set amount of works – Romford’s Marshalls Park School will perform the same play on Thursday, May 12 – the festival celebrates the different ways young people can interpret things.

“They don’t have any preconceptions about anything so their imagination expands my imagination,” said Suzann.

“They haven’t been an actor for 20 years so they’re able to bring a new, fresh energy which is great.

“The plays are very honest and open and really showcase talents of young people.

“Theatre is an extremely powerful medium. The difference between theatre and going to a movie is the audience interaction, it’s like you’re there in the moment.

“Obviously you do get some interaction at the cinema, sometimes you laugh at a joke and it’s contagious or something, but with theatre, how you are an audience actually affects what’s happening on stage.”

The festival will run as a series of nightly double-bills from Tuesday until Saturday, May 14, with each show beginning at 7pm.

All tickets are priced at £5. Visit for full listings or to book.

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