NT Connections 500 Festival

NT Connections 500 Festival

Young theatre artists and performers from across Coventry and beyond came together to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of National Theatre Connections, a nationwide initiative celebrating the energy, commitment and talent of young theatre-makers living in the UK today.

To mark the last 20 years of Connections, the National Theatre invited 500 youth companies from across the country to celebrate the legacy of creating great new writing for the stage. The Belgrade Theatre was delighted to be hosting 7 of these youth companies from Friday 15 – Sunday 17 April as part of the nationwide celebrations.

Among the companies who performed over the weekend were the Belgrade’s own Black Youth Theatre, one of four targeted youth theatre groups run by the Belgrade Theatre which aim to give voice to the experiences of underrepresented communities within the city. The Black Youth Theatre will be reprising their production of ‘Children of Killers’ by Katori Hall, a powerful and compelling tale of three friends, born during the bloody aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide.

This will be followed by a performance of ‘What Are They Like’ by Lucinda Coxon by the Belgrade Canley Youth Theatre in conjunction with Coventry Youth Services.

The show, which explores the experience of parenthood as seen through the eyes of a group of teenagers, previously toured to three community venues earlier that year including The Xcel Leisure Centre in Canley, The Hagard Centre Willenhall and On Target Youth Centre, Hogarth Lane.

Visiting companies from across the Midlands include George Salter Academy performing Children of Killers by Katori Hall, Sandwell Youth Theatre performing It Snows by Bryony Lavery & Frantic Assembly, the Highly Sprung ‘Sprungsters’ performing Gargantua by Carl Grose, Whitley Academy performing Take Away by Jackie Kay and Bablake Theatre performing The Musicians by Patrick Maber.

Connections began 20 years ago when teachers and directors told the National Theatre that they wanted exciting and challenging new plays for young actors. Since then the NT has commissioned and published more than 150 plays for Connections, giving young people aged 13-19 across the UK and Ireland access to the very best new writing for theatre.

Participation Associate (Youth) and Festival Producer Kim Hackleman said:

Connections gives young people experience of professional theatre-making. Their experience mirrors that of a company producing a new play in any theatre in the country. They create marketing campaigns, design sets and costumes, operate lighting and sound boards and stage-manage their performances. All of these companies have a performance at their own venue that is attended by a Partner Theatre Producer and a National Theatre Director. With the support of the Partner Theatre and the NT Director they then transfer their performance to a leading regional theatre, at one of the Connections Partner Theatre festivals, like this one, around the country.