Supporting young people in theatre is really important. We need fresh voices and new ideas to be heard. Theatre is such a wonderful tool and adds so much to our society. It is a fantastic way to engage people, question perceptions and explore different lifestyles and cultures. It gives us the opportunity to empathise with and understand those whose stories may seem foreign and unfamiliar. Currently we find ourselves in a time when the tension between the communities and cultures which make up our society are exploding and this invariably leads to aggression and resentment. It seems to me that empathy and understanding are needed now more than ever. The theatre is capable of humanising people who the News may just make sound like a number somewhere very far away. A show can also be joyous and inspiring and when life is challenging you it can be the perfect antidote. The younger generation are largely missing out on the wonderful feeling and experience the theatre can give you. For whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be part of their consciousness and I think we in the industry need to do more to engage them as there is so much to be gained.
It is stating the obvious to say that young people are the future and therefore it is odd that our voices are underrepresented in mainstream commercial theatre. Not only must we tell young peoples stories so that they feel represented and part of the conversation but we must also support those young people trying to create and be part of that work. Fringe Theatre in this country is vibrant, varied and brave. It would be wonderful to see a little more support for the fantastic work which is created on a shoe string budget. If all the big doors stay closed to us where are our theatre makers of the future going to come from?
So, whose responsibility is it? There is very little use in having a moan if you aren’t actually going to do something about it. I started Fabricate Theatre out of a desire to showcase myself and other young people like me. My aim for the company is to have it known for producing work which speaks to young people. It is a company for and about them. It is strange to think that in such a youth obsessed world that the young are actually not well represented in theatre. There is a lack of work which appeals to this demographic; once you are too old for Panto where do your parents take you? The Theatre has always appealed more to the older generation so our challenge will be producing work which appeals to and inspires young people to come and give it a go.
I saw Bunny when I was 18 at The Soho Theatre in London and it was the first time that I had seen a show that was made for me and my friends. It was about us. She talked about the things I worried about, fantasised about and was ashamed to think about. The show had a profound impact on me and I never forgot how fantastic it was to feel empowered by a piece of theatre. That is what theatre is capable of. To inspire, to engage, to energise and enthral. I want young people to experience that in a theatre because if they do they will fall in love with it.
I think it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that young people are supported and championed because the whole of our society relies on them and their future.
So perhaps the next time a big West End producer is thinking of putting on yet another ‘Mousetrap’ (which I confess I love!) it would be wonderful if they looked for something a little out of the ordinary; something like ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’, ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’ or ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’. These shows not only sell, they will engage and inspire a whole new audience and once you’re hooked you’re hooked!
This piece was written by Catherine Lamb, AD of Fabricate Theatre, playing Katie in ‘Bunny’ by Jack Thorne running at The Tristan Bates Theatre from 15th – 27th January.