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16th January 2009 at 00:00

Teenagers from two schools and a community group in Ayrshire have been involved in the premiere of Be Near Me, the latest gritty production from the National Theatre of Scotland. It opened at the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock this week and will tour Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Perth.

Based on the novel by controversial Scottish author Andrew O'Hagan, Be Near Me tells the story of an Oxford-educated Catholic priest who, after moving to a parish in a depressed Ayrshire town, befriends two troubled teenagers from a local school, with disastrous results.

The new play was adapted by Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid, famous for his role as the evil Emperor Palatine in the Star Wars films, who takes the lead alongside such actors as Blythe Duff from Taggart.

In the run-up to the premiere, specialists from the NTS learning team having been working with Ayrshire teenagers from the CrossoverISSC community group, as well as English and drama pupils from Irvine Royal Academy and St Joseph's Academy in Kilmarnock.

Ben Davis, head of music and drama at St Joseph's, says: "We had worked with the NTS before and were delighted to have the chance to get involved in another project.

"This time, pupils were presented with an extract from the play and working with both a dance and a drama specialist, they created their own original piece with all four sessions filmed by an NTS digital artist. Each session lasted only 53 minutes but our pupils learned a lot and really benefited from the experience."

All the teenagers involved will attend the premiere, where a film of their work will be on show.

www.nationaltheatrescotland.com.

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