When asked how to play for children, Stanislavski replied: “The same as for adults, only better”57 

57 quoted by Caryl Jenner in her advice booklet for actors new to working with Unicorn, about 1970 – original source unknown

Figure 2 Youth arts links I would contend that the process of producing drama and performance for and/or with young people is one of the most satisfying experiences for the practitioner, and has an immediacy and importance that is unlike other forms of performance. Whether intended to develop the aesthetic sensibility of young audiences; or to enhance their understanding of the world; to develop their ability to understand themselves, to enhance their sense of self and their ability to communicate; the range of outcomes for young people’s theatre is particularly diverse. Theatre with, for, or by young people has a long history, which reaches back to the renaissance and beyond. The modern movement has found a numbers of inspirations, coming from both education and the Arts. Broadly, there seem to be three, maybe four main movements, all of which intersect. It is increasingly common for organisations to be involved in some or all of these activities: Youth theatre aims to develop young people as theatre-makers in their own right. The role of adults is to guide, direct, and mentor. Theatre for Young Audiences (Children’s Theatre) is provided by (adult) professional performers as an entertainment, with children in an audience role. I would distinguish it from the British tradition of pantomime, a family-oriented variety form Participatory Theatre (TiE or Theatre in Education) uses actors as animateurs, to promote learning across the range of the curriculum, but traditionally within the area covered with personal and social responsibility and citizenship. Its techniques are also now used extensively in other educative and training environments.

Other aspects. We should not ignore the wider engagement of young people in theatre and drama, which will included the work of attached education departments, and the role of the school drama curriculum. The creative industries training agenda is 27

now starting to be indentified, and links with the broader issues of engaging young people are clear. There is also a long tradition of children’s television; again beyond the scope of this enquiry but deeply relevant to it. In terms of the outcomes of youth arts activity it is argued that arts/theatre involvement of young people has a positive social and commercial benefit for society and the economy: as we will see else where, creativity and the arts are being used as drivers of regeneration in equal measure to housing, transport and business development. A broad catch-all phrase for all of these activities has been Theatre for Young People (TYP), but as the boundaries and definitions shift, this is something of a loose descriptor – and perhaps more useful for that. Given the instrumental nature of these activities, it is not surprising that YPT has been and still remains a political battleground. The unfinished history of the movement is waiting to being written, and it will show an engagement from a broad political spectrum; often in debate; with funding issues, local and national government interference and accusations of both censorship and indoctrination flying around, this has been perhaps the most heated area of arts activity of the last forty years. It is beyond the scope of this short survey to do more than note it.

ACE has recently completed a series of pilot projects, called Paving the Way58.

58 Arts Council England: Paving the Way Jan 2007 http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/documents/publications/PavingtheWayExecutiveSummaryWord_phpLt8Aa1.rtf.

59 www.artscouncil.org.uk/downloads/GET_IN_evaluation.pdf GET IN..! was a 3 day youth theatre conference in Liverpool 14th- 17th Jul 2008: full web page at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/our-work/get-in-international-conference/

“The Young People’s Participatory Theatre (YPPT) programme was a 3-year Department for Culture Media and Sport funded strategic initiative to develop youth and participatory theatre in England. Delivered by Arts Council England, it completed in March 2009 and was a key priority for theatre, which includes circus, street arts and experimental theatre within its definition. YPPT aimed to work with young people aged 11 – 25 outside of formal education.”59


The umbrella body for youth theatre in the UK is the National Association of Youth Theatres. With a membership of well over 1000 companies/groups, it is a respected and effective representative organisation. The NAYT attempts a definition of its sphere of action:

“‘Youth theatre’ is a phrase which describes a distinct sphere of activity but a whole galaxy of possibilities. The membership of NAYT is very broad and embraces many different models of practice. Groups range from the youth sections of amateur societies, to large, well-resourced, professionally-led 28

groups attached to venues, to youth service led groups working with marginalised young people, to small independent groups gathered around an individual leader.” 60 Research from 2002 identified 23 distinct kinds of organisation, but summarised their activity into four models:

60 Hughes, Jenny and Wilson, Karen: Research into the impact of youth theatre, by Centre for Applied Theatre Research (University of Manchester) 2002 http://www.nayt.org.uk/events/archive/rdp/actionresearch.htm

http://www.nayt.org.uk/support/whatisyouththeatre.htm accessed 22/10/09 61 Hill, Roger: http://www.nayt.org.uk/support/historicalandpoliticalperspective.htm

62 Adamson, Jill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ennn1I2izvA NAYT Chief Executive Jill Adamson’s welcome to Raising the Game – NAYT’s national training event. 7 May 2009.

Theatre/arts – access to drama and theatre process;

Community – promote community identity;

Youth arts – development of the individual;

Applied theatre – using theatre as a tool

Roger Hill was the founding chair of NAYT in 1982, and is now (among other things) president of the association. He explores the value, and the values, of their work:

“Is, for example, the value of youth theatre to be found in the process of making theatre, a process so beneficial to young people in terms of increased self-possession and capacity for social action, or in the productions themselves with their standards of finesse and exactitude? The emphasis in this debate of ‘process and product’ has shifted towards the former, but it is generally felt that both elements must be closely related in any true national evaluation of the work”.61

His current successor as chair, Jill Adamson, in her keynote address to the NAYT conference in 2009 identified the current priorities as:

the change of NAYT from being a

membership organisation to a

development one – over a 1000

members, running 9 regional YPT

festivals, rather than the annual


The agenda of Every Child Matters

informing future government policy (of whatever complexion)

The importance of children’s trusts 62

Photo 12 Gill Adamson. Video still 

Given the extent of engagement in the youth theatre movement, it is not surprising that the Arts Council is now taking their influence very seriously.


Theatre for Young Audiences is the British centre of Assitej (Association Internationale63 du Theatre pour l’Enfance et la Jeunesse), the world wide organisation for YPT. Its members include Unicorn, Theatre Centre and the National, as well as M6, Nottingham Roundabout TiE. 64 It might be regarded as a ‘broad spectrum’ organisation, uniting many of the themes of this chapter. It arose from the ashes of SCYPT, the standing conference of Young people’s theatre, which fell into abeyance during the 90’s.

63 http://www.assitej-international.org/english/home.aspx 64 http://www.tya-uk.org/membersdirectory.asp

65 http://www.unicorntheatre.com/about_us/history 10 Ibid

67 http://www.polkatheatre.com/about_company_history.asp

68 The Dorothy Heathcote archive is held at Manchester Metropolitan University: http://www.partnership.mmu.ac.uk/dha/

A leading member is the Unicorn Theatre for Young People (Formally Unicorn Children’s Theatre): founded by Caryl Jenner just after WWII in a couple of ex-army lorries, it went on to a long residency at the Arts Theatre in the West End, playing to middle-class children at weekends, and to inner-city schools audiences on weekdays. Their work is now a balance of performance and workshop activity, based on a purpose-designed building on the South Bank, which opened finally in 2005:65

“We believe that theatre for young people should have the same high standards as theatre for adults, and we’re committed to providing young people with opportunities to learn and play through the arts. Our Artistic Team creates shows that both families and school groups come and enjoy at the theatre, and our Education Team takes projects combining drama, storytelling, music and the visual arts into schools throughout London.”66

Photo 13 Unicorn Theatre Glyn1, Flickr

A company with a similar history is Polka:

“Polka Theatre started life as a touring company in 1967 under the Artistic Directorship of Richard Gill. Gill was spurred on by a commitment to fine design and craftsmanship and a passion for puppetry, taking the company’s work to many of Britain’s major theatres. At the heart of Polka’s work is a programme of learning that encourages children to explore and develop creatively. Every Polka show is supported by a learning programme. Schools visiting the theatre can benefit from online learning packs and rehearsal diaries, show-related workshops and after-show talks.”67 Coming from a different tradition is the work of Theatre Centre (TC). It was

founded in 1953 by Brian Way and Margaret Faulkes, and based on Way’s work as a pioneering writer on educational drama. His work “Development Through Drama” was for many years the standard primer for teachers of drama, following on from Peter Slade’s “Child Drama” of 1946; and along with the work of Dorothy Heathcote68 at Newcastle, lead to the training of a whole generation of drama teachers. Theatre 30

Centre was the expression of the desire to form a theatre company that was dedicated to the personal development of children, influenced by the work of educational psychologists like Piaget, Bruner, and Huizinga. The plays that Brian Way developed for the company were developed with particular age groups in mind, and designed to be performed as intimate experiences in the round on the school hall floor.

“Over the years, TC has revolutionised the creation and staging of young people’s theatre through its innovative management, casting, commissioning and participatory initiatives. TC spear-headed the intimate performance to focus the child’s imagination and championed diversity with its promotion of integrated casting and Black and Asian writers and artists. More recently TC became pre-eminent in its play-making process and empowering the vision of young writers through its Authentic Voices programme. Throughout TC’s history, the Company has adapted and evolved in order to be contemporary, diverse and inspirational, with its core aim to provide the best theatre experience for children and young people today.69

Photo 14 Dorothy Heathcote, screen grab

69 http://www.theatre-centre.co.uk/index.php?pid=16 22.oct09

70http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/index.cfm/page/content.index.cfm/cid/41/navid/35/parentid/10 22 Oct 09

71 See Bennett, Stuart: Drama and Theatre in the UK educational system. In “National Drama” http://www.nationaldrama.co.uk/docs/IDEASurvey.doc..


The participatory theatre tradition comes from yet another set of influences. According to Nottingham Roundabout:

“Theatre-in-Education is acknowledged to have started as a separate art form and educational activity at the Coventry Belgrade Theatre in 1965. A group of actors, teachers and social workers were brought together to create a community outreach team, to establish the Belgrade within the growing conurbation of Coventry.”70

Practitioners very early on borrowed the concept of “teacher-in-role”, developed by Heathcote and Gavin Bolton, to create a powerful learning medium that was child-centred, problem oriented, and socially determined.71 Many of its early practitioners came from the expanded teacher training of the 1960’s, and were motivated by radical pedagogic perspectives, such as Ivan Illich’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. Coventry Belgrade TiE are still active: 31

The Company’s work is based on the premise that drama is a powerful tool for the building of creative, confident individuals and communities with a strong sense of local identity. The Belgrade’s community programme is central to the theatre’s work in the city, and has been re-shaped to raise levels of access and participation, particularly targeting disadvantaged or under-represented groups. Steps taken to achieve this shift in emphasis include running workshop programmes in venues across the city, taking community performances out into community venues, running activities that specifically target the city’s Black and Minority Ethnic communities, and forming new partnerships to push forward new ways of working. The Company strives to achieve artistic excellence in all areas of its work.72

72 http://www.belgrade.co.uk/site/scripts/websection.php?webSectionID=12

73 See interview with Michael Billington in The Guardian, 3 Jan 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2008/jan/03/theatre

74 http://www.bigbrum.org.uk/archives/cat_company.html accessed 20/10/09

Big Brum Theatre still practice a very interactive experience for young people, at the same time as performing texts by Edward Bond, who has developed a strong motivation towards the more radical tradition of YPT work.73

“The most distinctive feature of TIE however is participation. In all of our work the theatre or performance element is a part of a whole programme. There is often work before a performance, in between scenes and episodes and, or, after. The participatory element is sometimes integrated even further into the structure with a much more fluid boundary between the two different modes of audience and active participant. Participation will often relate to the use of a role and there is always a task, a purpose to it for the class. (For example, the play element of the programme concerns the death of people in a village as a result of contaminated water. The children are in role as investigators for the UN whose task is to produce a report which will bring those responsible for contaminating the water to account and set up a more accountable and efficient means of water purification). The task is a way of encoding their learning. Being able to engage in this way enables the participant to bring their whole selves to the TIE programme, it matters to them, and they are not watching it but are in it. But by utilising the distance that fiction provides, as referred to above, the participants are protected into the world of the fiction. The physical manipulation of the TIE programme has all the characteristics of learning in real life.”74

Photo 15 Big Brum’s 25th anniversary Company website 32

In the Thames Gateway area of London, a number of companies are working in a latter day mode: each borough has its own resident company, mostly existing on project-funding rather than revenue:

Tower Hamlets: Half Moon TYP

Hackney: Immediate Theatre; Theatre Centre

Newham: Theatre Venture

Southwark: Unicorn, London Bubble

Greenwich/Lewisham: Greenwich & Lewisham YPT (GLYPT)

“Half Moon [Young People’s Theatre] offers two inter-locking strands of activity – professional productions and participatory projects for young people. At our East London venue from September to April we offer a full season of exciting and imaginative productions for 0 – 17 year olds, including our own productions.” “We [GLYPT] specialise in working with education partners to design stimulating and rewarding programmes specifically suited to the needs of the participants. We also have a range of extant programmes dealing with topical issues such as racism, identity and cultural diversity that have been designed to complement the PHSE and Citizenship curriculum areas.” These companies have demonstrated a firm commitment to inclusive practice. Theatre Venture, for example, regularly employ deaf actors integrate signing, while including actors with mobility problems and learning disabilities. A trawl through their websites reveals actors from a wide range of race backgrounds; and in subject matter there is an eagerness to represent the cultural origins of their client groups. GLYPT for example, in co-production with Theatre Is… from East Anglia, produced “Master Juba” about an early Black dance innovator of the mid- 19th century. Perhaps the strongest example of incusive practice is Oily Cart, who work with very young and with severe learning disabled people:

“Oily Cart is one of the great British theatre companies of the last 25 years. Yet plenty of theatregoers, even the most avid, will not have heard of it. The reason is simple: Oily Cart works entirely with children, many with complex disabilities, and often behind closed doors in special schools.”75 They say of themselves:

75 Lyn Gardner, Guardian Unlimited, 5 July, 2006

76 http://www.oilycart.org.uk/about_us/

“By transforming everyday environments into colourful, tactile ‘wonderlands’ we invite our audience to join us in a world of the imagination. Using hydro-therapy pools and trampolines, aromatherapy, video projection, and puppetry together with a vast array of multi-sensory techniques, we create original and highly specialised theatre for our young audiences.”76 33

The TiE movement was represented by SCYPT, whose archive is now at University of Leeds, part of their inheritance from Bretton Hall College. Their journals consist of a long and often heated debate about the nature of the movement. In content, SCYPT companies generally took up broad issues such as racism, violence, control or human need. As David Pammenter wrote, ‘We cannot pretend that the socio-political factors that govern the lives of adults are different for children, so – if access to knowledge is an important freedom – then we must make those factors accessible to the young so that they may explore and challenge them if they choose.’

In form, TIE companies created ‘programmes’. These were a carefully structured series of events that might include a piece of participatory theatre, a play, a workshop, a follow up visit, and pre- or post -show teacher’s packs. The TIE company’s part of each programme was designed for work with one class, say 25-30 young people of a particular age group, over half a day or a whole day. The work was labour intensive and aimed to allow a broad, deep and free exploration of the chosen theme by posing open questions, that is, questions with no ‘correct’ answer, such as ‘what do human beings need in order to live?’ or ‘why is our history important to us?’77

77 Maclaurin, Alison: www.scenography- international.com/journal/issue2/theatredesign.pdf, 2007 . Dave Pammenter worked at Coventry Belgrade TiE and ran the Community Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford College, following on from Stuart Bennett and Colin Hicks. 78 Invited by Rose Bruford College 79 Siertz, Aleks http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/06/augusto-boal-obituary

A profound influence on the movement was that of Augusto Boal and Forum theatre; arising from a similar preoccupation with empowerment, and also deriving thinking from Ivan lllich. Boal came over to England in the 1970’s78, and has profoundly influenced applied theatre practitioners in the UK, particularly wth Theatre of the Oppressed, directly citing Illich with its title. Aleks Siertz, in writing his obituary in The Guardian, comments:

‘”Unlike the dogmatic political theatre of the 1960s, which told people what to do,” Boal said, when I met him in 1995, “we now ask them what they want.” What excited him, he said, was the unexpected creativity of the process. “Many times we came up with a simple idea no one had thought of before.” More books followed, including Games for Actors and Non-Actors (1989), The Rainbow of Desire (1995) and Legislative Theatre (1998)’79 Boal’s work is now being used in may fields. Adrian Jackson, who runs Cradboard Citizens, and is also Boal’s translator, writes: 34

“The theatre of the oppressed is the over-arching title for the whole theatrical methodology pioneered by Augusto Boal. It is an ensemble of techniques, rooted in an ethical framework, designed to enable change both within the individual and society, with particular application to communities experiencing oppression. This work can be used in an incredible variety of settings, fro classroom to prison, from development situation to legislative chamber, from youth centre to elders club. The techniques are also used within the therapeutic community, t empower participants and to eliminate blocks to action. Variously Boal described his work as a rehearsal for revolution and a ‘rehearsal for reality’.”80

80 Jackson, Adrian: www.cardboardcitizens.org.uk/ 22 Oct 09 

81Boal, Augusto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOgv91qQyJc Augusto Boal (April 16, 1931 – May 2, 2009) – PART 1 06 May 2009 Interview on Democracy Now!, 82 Robinson Sir Ken (Chair) “All our futures” report, NACCCE 1999

(Ironically for such a radical medium, Boal’s methodologies are also being used in business training – an example, perhaps, of capitalist appropriation of radical traditions.) In an interview on public broadcasting shortly before he died, Boal talks of learning humility from peasant farmers: as a young agitprop company they were advocating armed struggle: the farmers challenged them to act on it, by joining in on an attack on a local landowner. Boal realised from this that agitprop was mere posturing, and set about developing useful artistic tools to help the peasant farmers.81

Photo 16 Augusto Boal Screengrab


The advent of the Labour government in 1997 sparked a whole series of initiatives, following on from Tony Blair’s mantra of “Education, education, education”. As we have seen in chapter 1, the arts were also the subject of intense activity. In 1999, the National Advisory Council on Creative and Cultural Education, chaired by Sir Ken Robinson, reported on the state of arts education, and pointed out the disconnect between arts organisations and schools. In particular the report identified need for arts education professionals who wre familiar with both areas82 As a result, both the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Education and Skills (later Dept for Children, Schools and Families) started a series of initiatives. The arts were seen as a potential driver of educational attainment. Specialist schools were established, to concentrate on arts subjects in leading the whole school curriculum. Schools were encouraged to achieve Artsmark status; and soon, the discussion went on to creative partnerships, encouraging schools to use artist residencies as a way to inspire young people. Last year the government announced that all young people 35

should have an entitlement of 5 hours per week of arts activity. Some in the theatre community are cautious:

“Cultural entitlement means nothing unless schools are committed to the arts and creative partnership – not the sort that only works in certain areas but all areas at all times. Culture is not an add-on nor can it be reduced to the notion of a pilot project. It must be a statutory requirement in the same way that literacy and numeracy and IT are”83. This last point echoes a trenchant call by Ken Robinson for creativity to be given a higher status within the schools curriculum, given the need for inventive thinking in the knowledge economy of the 21st century:

83 http://www.itc-arts.org/downloads/events/Tony.doc.

84 http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html Technology Education Design conference, Monterey California Feb 2006 See also Robinson, K: Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Paperback) Capstone (5 April 2001) 85 http://www.eno.org/education/aboutbaylis.php

‘Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize — much less cultivate — the talents of many brilliant people. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. The universality of his message is evidenced by its rampant popularity online. A typical review: “If you have not yet seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, please stop whatever you’re doing and watch it now.”’84 For the voluntary sector, the arts council has developed the Arts Awards, sculpted on the successful model of the Duke of Edinburgh’s awards scheme, to recognise informal achievement. Most recently, the 14-19 Creative and Media diploma has been floated (with mixed success), with the original intention of taking on the problem of the narrowness of the A-level award system. Arts funding, too, has been redirected towards educational emphasis: 40% of the RSC’s funding is dependant on delivering schools workshops, for example.

The larger arts organisations now have well developed education and outreach programmes, including extremely sophisticated websites. ENO Baylis project have three strands of work: Interactive (the web work); Live (events and activities); and Training (including developing young singers).85 The Royal Opera House, along with similar work, are supporting the development of the National Skills Academy at Thurrock, and have been working with local schoolchildren to develop music theatre site-specific performance.

Creative and Cultural Skills, the sector skills council responsible for the Thurrock NSA, are in the process of developing regional training centres for technical theatre skills, including providing creative apprenticeships. This aspect of the work is about developing the workforce of the 36

future, and has been made all the more urgent by London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics The Children Act 2004 is the legal underpinning for Every Child Matters, which sets out the Government’s approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. It is clear the arts are being seen as a key element in the national strategy. “The aim of the Every Child Matters programme is to give all children the support they need to:

be healthy

stay safe

enjoy and achieve

make a positive contribution

achieve economic well-being.

The Every Child Matters agenda has been further developed through publication of the Children’s Plan in December 2007. The Children’s Plan is a ten-year strategy to make England the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. It places families at the heart of Government policy, taking into account the fact that young people spend only one-fifth of their childhood at school. Because young people learn best when their families support and encourage them, and when they are taking part in positive activities outside of the school day, the Children’s Plan is based around a series of ambitions which cover all areas of children’s lives.86

86 Every Child Matters www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/ 37