The kids are alright – Don’t dismiss youth theatre as bad theatre

Convener(s): Andrew Scullin

Participants: Shakera Louise Ahad, John Roberts, Jake Orr, Simon Pollard, Lauren Rowley, Mark Smith.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

After leaving a very interesting session about ‘de-cheesing’? musical theatre, I took a step down the cultural respect ladder and asked why youth theatre is viewed as bad theatre.

My own experience has led me to believe that you don’t really pull in people that don’t have a connection with a cast member if you are staging a show to be performed by young people. 

It can’t be because it is amateur (although that comes with it’s own set of problems), I don’t think that people are aware that children can act and can be very good.

Initially the focus was on lack of funding for advertising. No one is going to see a show if it’s just a little flyer in a shop window. 

Maybe if a company staging quality theatre performed by young people did so more regularly therefore establishing a ‘fanbase’?

Pop up stages in town centres?

The quality needs to be high, maybe if more people were involved behind the scenes who have a vested interest (although, now I type this I can just picture competitive parents sabotaging other kids costumes).

Good intentions but poorly executed. 

The performances should be age appropriate. Don’t act up in age. People may not buy a child’s portrayal of an adult due to their own preconceptions.


Mark talked about a production staged at the Sherman. 100 young people on stage, set in prehistoric times, not issue driven, can’t remember the name. Closest we got was Um-Bongo.

Youtube, Facebook, Twitter. Buzz and hype are all essential. Give a long run up to a production.

Get involved with NAYT events.

Lack of issues is important. Youth theatre can just be valid entertainment. Whilst we’re talking about youth theatre, drop the youth. It’s become synonymous with the above points.

Saying that, why should you have to sneak youth theatre in under the radar.  People have to change their perception of it. That’s quite a big ask though.

Involve young people in the creative process. Don’t try and second guess what you think is relevant to young people. Celebration of their existence. Don’t be down with the kids.  Drawing parallels with musical theatre. Another ‘dirty word’.

Spike theatre production involving four professional actors and various ages of young performers led to a ladder of aspiration. GCSE – A Level – Graduates – Professionals.

Make it big, make it bold but do it well.

There are companies producing great young peoples theatre but too many bad ones ruining it for the others. Boo.

Some people feel that youth theatre is a box that has to be ticked to maintain funding and therefore they don’t make an effort. Could be true in some cases but DEFINITELY not the majority.

Is work devised by young people better? It may be more honest but it could lack essential direction. Scripted work can be just as vibrant if director has the vision.

Train young people to create workshops.

Plenty of examples of people getting behind it. Almeida, The Bubble Theatre, Playbox Theatre, Theatreventure, NT Connections. Not enough support in the smaller companies.

Adults don’t want to watch young performers. Harsh but true.

Just market it like a show but this goes back to the point that why should you hide what it is.

Even NYT gets reviewed with a ‘didn’t they do well’ mentality (except you Jake)

Lives aren’t set in stone. Little Jimmy is on stage now but really wants to be a hairdresser. Job that you make money from doesn’t define your abilities.

There is no difference between ‘Professional’ and ‘youth/amateur’.

Don’t target the mainstream, find the audience that supports young people in theatre, don’t churn out the same old shows, original material is crucial.

Allow young people to view theatre as something they DO understand. You don’t have to decipher it. Your opinion is valid. If you think it’s bad, say so. Don’t put it on a pedestal. IT’S ENTERTAINMENT.