This weekend a group of actors from Knowsley will head to The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the RSC’s open-air Dell theatre.
SevenStreets caught up with Kate Gorst, Creative Director of Liverpool’s Altru Drama to find out how a group of young local actors came to be heading to the most famous Shakespearean venue in the world – and discover Knowsley’s connection to one of Shakespeare’s most engaging comedies.
SevenStreets: Tell us about Altru…
Kate Gorst: Altru is a drama and arts organisation based in Knowsley. We work with schools and other education organisations across the UK but a big part of our work is also delivering youth theatres in Knowsley.
We’ve been running since 2005, and we’ve been delivering youth theatre since 2007. We absolutely love the youth theatre work we do and we invest an awful lot of time into creating professional level performances with young people.
SS: What are your aims?
KG: Our aims are always to give children and young people the best possible creative drama experiences that allow them to grow and develop both personally and professionally and to achieve their creative potential.
We work hard to create positive, inclusive drama sessions that young people love coming to and where they can flourish. We passionately believe in the young people and Knowsley (and Merseyside) and are committed to giving them brilliant opportunities to create amazing performances that they can be proud of.
Our youth theatres are a partnership with Knowsley Council and we work with anyone aged 7 – 19 from the Knowsley area (or nearby.) Young people pay a nominal fee of £1 per session.
SS: Tell us about some of your productions
KG: Across the 3 different youth theatre groups we run – Halewood, Huyton & Kirkby – we’ve done a wide variety of different projects. From hard-hitting devised performances like What Happens When, which was about relationships and alcohol, to a full-scale performance of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe at Christmas last year.
We’ve also done fairy tales, performances in disused shopping centres, worked in partnership with the Everyman and Playhouse Youth Theatre, and been asked to perform for three years running at Liverpool’s Light Night.
We performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in summer 2010 with a slightly different group of young people and were really keen to do it again. The story is a fantastical and hilarious tale of young love, magical creatures and terrible actors and it’s a wonderful story to tell.
The rehearsal process has been amazing because the young people are all so committed and giving up so much of their time to bring this performance to life. I feel really passionately that Shakespeare can – and should be – accessible to all and that the stories he told are still relevant today; they tell of people and relationships and can still speak to modern audiences.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a wonderful, funny and magical play and it is totally tied up with Knowsley as, legend has it, that the play was inspired by and written for the wedding of Lady Elizabeth of Derby’s wedding to William Stanley in 1594, who then made their home in Lord Derby’s estate in Prescot.
How did the RSC performance come about?
KG: Each year the RSC ask for applications for their outdoor festival from youth, community and schools groups as well as emerging theatre companies from across the UK. In 2012, however, this has been extended internationally and – to celebrate the cultural Olympiad and World Shakespeare Festival – organisations from across the world have applied and been accepted.
We sit amongst organisations from American and Australia as well as from across the UK, and we’re delighted to be the only group of young people from the Merseyside area asked to perform. We’re doing two performances on Saturday 14th July for up to 600 people – we can’t wait!
The young people all feel passionately that this performance could be career changing for them – to perform on the stage of the RSC is such a huge honour, and everyone is giving it their all to make it a fantastic performance both for them and their audience.
It’s been a lot of hard work for us, but seeing the young people bring the performance to life so beautifully and with such conviction makes it all worthwhile!
SS: How are you funding this?
KG: I should say that we’ve had absolutely no funding to do this and everyone working on it is doing so in a voluntary capacity. We are still fundraising to pay for our travel and accommodation so if anyone is able to help there’s still time!
SS: And you’ll be performing it back in Liverpool?
KG: Yes that is most definitely the plan! We’re still coordinating dates and venues at the moment so it will probably be later in the summer than we’d initially hoped. Liverpool has so much going on, it’s hard to find an available venue!
What’s your favourite thing in Liverpool?
KG: Can I pick something that isn’t a thing? The thing I love most about Liverpool is our passion, energy and enthusiasm and our can-do spirit. We are grafters and we make things happen – especially in the arts world and it’s such a brilliant place to be living and working right now.
You can sponsor Altru Theatre’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at their site
Click on the RSC website for more details of the venue and performance