Youth makes Connections

Brian Hayward

Once again, the National Theatre has chosen the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum as the Scottish venue for its annual Connections festival next week.

It is one of the 18 theatres across Britain hosting this celebration of youth theatre, which gives young people the chance to perform on prestigious stages, directed by professionals in plays specially commissioned from young playwrights.

It is an attractive package that draws participants from far and near. Nearest for the Lyceum is its own youth theatre, directed this year by Rosie Kellagher, who combines a full-time desk job there with freelance directing. Its choice is The Miracle by Lin Coghlan. The story tells of two girls who find a way to help their ailing community when, by chance, floodwater forces a holy statue up through the floorboards of their house.

The furthest flung group at the festival is the Oslo International School, followed by the Crooked House Youth Theatre from Kildare, outside Dublin.

Of the Scots, Yell, Unst and Fetlar Youth Theatre travels the furthest - from Shetland. Its name is taken from the three home islands of the 12 S1 to S4 girls from Mid Yell Junior High who make up the group. Its director, John Haswell, has been commuting to Yell from the mainland once or twice a week since Christmas, rehearsing these debutantes in The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife, a challenging play in a new translation from Lorca by Lucinda Coxon.

Another example of enterprising outreach work comes from the Isle of Skye Youth Theatre. Kati Kozikowska, a youth arts worker based on Skye, is bringing a group to Connections for the first time to perform Shut Up, by Andrew Payne. Ms Kozikowska's work is funded under the Out of Eden scheme, organised by the Eden Theatre in Inverness.

Four schools are taking part in the festival. Joining the Quad Theatre Company from Madras College in St Andrews, Craigholme School for Girls in Glasgow and George Heriot's in Edinburgh, is St Augustine's High, one of Edinburgh Council's "priority" schools. As a result of much after-hours work by what the Lyceum calls "two great drama teachers", a cast of 25 will present The Miracle, with Sarah Taggart directing and Simon Boothroyd, her head of department, at the lighting desk.

The Behind the Scenes Youth Theatre from Buckhaven is back at the Lyceum for the fourth time with Liar by Gregory Burke. Described as "a warm comedy", it charts the path of new boy Donnie as he negotiates the social minefield and teenage tribalism of a typical British high school.

Shell Connections, June

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