Theatre skills on budget

Disadvantaged young people given chance to shine in drama

Amateur drama classes are being offered to disadvantaged young people - some of whom have gone off the rails - for just pound;2 per week.

Performing arts lecturer Nikki Neale and her partner Michael Waters, a writer and director, founded Antic Youth Theatre two years ago in Swansea.

Ms Neale's belief that youngsters with "embryonic talent" should not be excluded from theatre on economic grounds was the thinking behind the drama and dance classes.

She says the discipline of performing brings out the best in some of the most unruly pupils in the city as they find sanctuary on the stage. It has also given young people the opportunity to experience a West End show in London.

"One of our young people, who had problems with anger and attention deficit, sustained a whole performance," said Ms Neale. "His parents were amazed at his focus and commitment."

Some of the young people are referred to Antic through social services. The couple have also recently made links with the city's youth offending team.

"To begin with, the discipline can come as a shock and a challenge, said Ms Neale. "But we have mentors who do everything the students do."

"Boys can be reluctant to dance so we always have a male teacher - someone sporty who'll also play football with them at lunchtimes."

Staff often work unpaid but there is a professional ethos surrounding Antic Youth. All the young people have the chance to learn stagecraft from a trained actor or West End choreographer. Most taking part are aged 14 or over, with regular numbers around 25-30.

Antic Youth's most recent play, 'Teacher', is about the impact a drama teacher makes on students at a difficult school. Swansea Institute gave Antic the cash to run a Saturday school on its premises, but it is always seeking new funding.

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