Dateline: 27th May, 2003
Shell Connections - The Festival
The National Theatre has announced the line-up for its Festival marking the culmination of the Shell Connections programme - the world's largest celebration of youth theatre. Between 15 and 22 July, fourteen groups from all over the UK, Eire and including one from Australia will take to the stage at the Cottesloe and Olivier Theatres to perform one play from a roster of ten newly commissioned pieces by top writers including Mark Ravenhill and Phillip Ridley. The young people are of ages ranging from eleven to nineteen and none of them have ever before appeared on stage at the National Theatre.
For each of the chosen groups this is a remarkable achievement. Performing at the National Theatre is the reward for many months of hard work, rehearsing and performing.
The programme started in November 2002, when directors from the theatre groups, this year's writers, and facilitating professional directors attended a weekend of workshops in Keswick. Members of the National Theatre were on hand to lend advice to directors on interpreting the plays. Groups then premiered their chosen play at a local venue and representatives from the National assessed these. On 28 March the first of thirteen regional festivals kicked off at the Newcastle Theatre Royal. Groups from the surrounding area performed their chosen play at these festivals, which lead up to the final festival at the National.
This year's plays, a mix of comedy, drama and fantasy, confront a variety of issues relevant to young people. The topics this year range from celebrity obsession to terrorism.
Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre said "The Shell Connections programme has everything: exciting new plays, committed and inspired performers and an audience that wants to be challenged, provoked and entertained. It's a model of what the theatre should be, and of what I hope the National Theatre will be in the years to come. It's all the more exciting for starting in youth theatre companies and schools all over the country. I love the way it connects us at the National with the artists and audiences of the future, and I love the way it inspires so many young people to discover how urgent and necessary the theatre can be. Shell's generous sponsorship enables the National to engage directly with young talent across the country, and we invariably find great bursts of creative energy and intelligence wherever we go. It's no surprise that so many of our best playwrights have been eager to write for Connections. They know what's good for them. I can't wait to discover what riches have been unearthed this year."
Now in its eleventh year, Shell Connections has grown into the biggest and best youth theatre festival in the world, attracting writers and young talent of the highest calibre. The total number of new plays written for the Connections programme and performed at the National now stands at 56. Writers who have risen to the challenge of writing a powerful hour-long play for young people between the ages of 11 and 19 over the years have included Jackie Kay, Alan Ayckbourn, Peter Gill, Bryony Lavery and Simon Armitage.
Shell announced sponsorship of Shell Connections last year, to the tune of £500, 000 over two years, allowing the number of schools and youth theatre groups taking part to double.
This year's new plays once again cover a breadth of wildly diverse subject matter: Phillip Ridley has written Brokenville, the story of what happens to a child when he wanders into a house after a 'nameless' catastrophe.
In An Island Far From Here, translated by David Hackston, leading Finnish playwright Laura Ruohonen tells the story of two young sisters who discover an old lady living in their cellar who is hiding from her prisoner son. It is a humorous story - yet dealing with serious themes - of what happens when the son arrives at the house having been released on parole.
The Crossing Path is penned by award winning playwright and poet Maya Chowdhry and takes place on a train journey into the New Forest. It is the story of Rhiannon Foy, a traveller who runs her life through consulting Tarot cards for nearly every decision she makes.
In Dust, by Sarah Daniels, a group of students are on a trip to Shakespeare's Globe when an unattended and ultimately explosive package is discovered on the underground train on which they are travelling.
The Ice Palace by Lucinda Coxen has been adapted from the novel by a short story by the Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesses. Set in a remote village at the onset of winter, it tells of what happens when an outgoing young girl called SISS goes to visit her new and mysterious classmate UNN.
Constance Congdon's Moontel Six is a 22nd Century-set comedy of cosmic proportions about a group of genetically altered teenagers set on the dark side of the moon.
Multiplex, by Christopher William Hill is a fantasy of what lies in the sinister parallel world beneath the dimly lit auditoria and candy-coloured foyers of a multiplex cinema.
The hugely acclaimed playwright Jon Fosse has written Purple, translated by David Harrower. It tells of the trials and tribulations of a band rehearsing in a cold dank underground room beneath an old factory.
One of the UK's most well known contemporary writers is Mark Ravenhill. He has penned Totally Over You, a wonderfully wry look at the folly of modern celebrity.
Last, writer and director David Farr has composed the very timely farcical comedy The Queen Must Die. It is a dark but sweet piece, which looks at why the English Monarchy is still so powerful, and about how faintly embarrassing it is to be a politically committed teenager in our modern consumer world.
The schools/groups taking part, and their plays, are:
Tuesday 15 July, The Cottesloe
Wednesday 16 July, The Cottesloe
Thursday 17 July, The Cottesloe
Friday 18 July, The Cottesloe
Saturday 19 July, The Cottesloe
Monday 21 July, The Olivier
Tuesday 22 July, The Olivier
Please note that all three Archive indices are very long and will therefore take some time to download.