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Second Takeover writer-in-residence announced

Published: 16 April 2019

20-year-old Elijah Young has been appointed as the writer-in-residence for the Customs House Takeover Festival 2019.

Each year, The Customs House is taken over by emerging artists and arts professionals aged up to 25 for a week of theatre, cinema, music, dance, poetry, hip hop and visual art. Last year, for the first time, a writer-in-residence was appointed and his play was produced at the venue during the Festival, performed by young professional actors from the region. That play was Wormtown and the writer was Reece Connolly, 24, from Prudhoe.

Now Teessider Elijah Young’s play Isolation will be performed at the South Shields venue on 31 May.

“I am proper buzzing to be the Young Writer in Residence!” he said. “The Customs House brings so much great theatre to the North East and has been committed to nurturing so many emerging artists.

“It was at this theatre I was first encouraged to write. I am honoured to have my first ever full play commission at this lush venue!”

He graduated as an actor from the Project A training course at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal in July last year but started writing two years ago. His first piece, Fag Break, which explored struggles of LGBT+ youth, was featured in the last 10 minutes to… night at Newcastle’s Live Theatre and recently he finished the Write Something course at Alphabetti, where his short play Dandelion & Burdock was featured.

His Takeover play, Isolation, follows the story of six students and their teachers at a school in the North East of England and the week they spend together in isolation. Dale is an openly gay student who clashes with Stephen who, despite his act, is struggling behind closed doors.

The week coincides with the first anniversary of the suicide of Connor Davies, who was a student at the school. Emotions are high amongst the students and, with the recent death still raw, could his suicide have been avoided?

Cabin fever sets in amongst the students and teachers, which leads them to reveal sides of them they wouldn’t normally share.

Last year’s director, Jake Smith, another Teessider, who began his career at Hull Truck Theatre as a Creative Learning Facilitator, returns to direct Isolation. He has been a Resident Director at the Almeida Theatre, Trainee Director at Chichester Festival Theatre and trained on the National Theatre Directors' Programme. He is currently the Artistic Director of the award-winning Petersfield Shakespeare Festival.

Fiona Martin, Deputy Director—Learning and Participation at The Customs House, said, “we were delighted with the number of strong applications that we received from young writers who wanted to have their work staged at The Customs House, but for us, Elijah really stood out. We are really looking forward working with him and to produce a new piece of theatre.”

Peter Lathan