Twenty six students from Wykham Park Academy and Futures Institute recently took part in the National Theatre’s Connections Festival, performing a new dramatic work at the Derngate and Royal Theatre, Northampton.

The nationwide youth theatre festival champions the talent of young people aged 13-19 from across the UK. Over 7,500 young people from 250 youth drama companies have taken part this year, performing ten specially commissioned plays at one of 33 leading partner theatres of which the Derngate and Royal is one.

The cast of Wykham Park Academy’s production, ‘Orchestra’ by Charlie Josephine, included students from years 9, 10 and 12 from both Wykham Park and its sister school Futures Institute, and was supported by two student technicians. It was the first time the schools have participated in the festival.

National Theatre’s Connections Festival

Show day at the Royal and Derngate Theatre

Head of Performing Arts, Elise de Lancy Green, is delighted with the impact participation in the festival has had:
“Performing new work for the National Theatre has really motivated our students. The chance to work with professional directors and technicians has given them an insight into the realities of working life in the theatre industry and exposed them to some great new writing.”

Preparation of their production began in earnest at the beginning of the year and included workshops supported by National Theatre staff.
“For our technicians, who are in Years 9 and 10, it was something of a baptism of fire,” laughs Elise. “Their first show and it’s staged at a beautiful, Victorian theatre! We are very grateful to the staff at the Royal for the fantastic support and teaching they offered on the day.”

Students performing at National Youth Connections 2024

Students performing at National Youth Connections 2024

Performance day at the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton was shared with companies from Wollaston School and Northampton School for Boys.
“It was lovely to watch our students make new friends and support other students. The generosity among the young people is what makes this festival so special,” adds Elise.

For performer Evie Sharman-Moss the experience was unforgettable:
“It has been a brilliant chance to learn how to work as an ensemble. We’ve learnt so much from working together as a cast and discovered how much can be achieved. Getting feedback from a professional director was a highlight!”

Fellow cast member Dylan Gale agrees: “We got an opportunity none of us have had before. We were treated like professionals and performed on a proper stage. We all came together for our shared love of drama.”

National Theatre’s Connections Festival

Principal of Wykham Park, Carly Berry commented, “We are very proud of the cast of ‘Orchestra.’ They rose to the challenge and worked with professionalism and commitment, conducting themselves immaculately. I hope this is the first of many entries into the Connections festival.”

The National Theatre Connections Festival continues until the end of June.

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