When I set up Theatretrain in 1992 I had two ambitious aims. The first was to create professional classes leading to exciting performance opportunities. The second was to build a children and young people’s theatre with a difference.
I had worked for 5 years in a theatre that existed purely to teach young people about how theatre worked. It was an exciting place with a full-time staff of 13. We performed an annual Christmas production that was seen by thousands of London school children. We did many day-long courses that taught young people about the jobs in a theatre like stage management and lighting. I ran a youth theatre and worked as an actor in many London museums where we presented programmes that brought history alive for children and young people. A lot of my time was spent directing extracts from plays that were being studied for GCSE and A level. They were heady days. Sadly, the theatre was closed when the Inner London Education Authority was disbanded by Margaret Thatcher. But I always wanted the concept to live on because such a building could fire young imaginations in a way that schools are not set up to do.
I wanted to create an unusual building with two small theatres. One would be a space for younger children and the other a grander space for 11 to 18-year-olds – a flexible theatre with real seats and of course a coffee bar/meeting place. I had all sorts of plans for the programmes we could run but I also wanted it to be a building with a difference. To be truly creative I wanted the exterior design to be altered with the changing seasons of the year. I saw flags and banners to catch the wind. I wanted to have the entrance ways at the appropriate height for the children or young people so that adults would usually have to dip to enter and remind themselves this place was really for others. I wanted open access and for it to be easy for young people with disabilities to learn about theatre. I wanted the children’s toilets to be imaginatively designed – like under the sea. An open-air space for larger shows. A place where people would come together to think and feel and experience life through theatre. It was all possible.
I set up a team of interested parents and we had meetings with an East London borough but in the end, I had to decide. After one of our shows at the London Palladium in 1999 the actress Kate Williams said to me,” You have to decide – you can’t give your energy to both.” So, I decided to put my energy into the classes and not the theatre. I think it was the right decision but I’ll never know.
Later this year Theatretrain will announce some new developments. In any company you have to innovate and change and evolve new creative ideas. The thinking that inspired the idea for the young people’s theatre is still there – it is just coming out in different ways. That’s the great thing about theatre – it allows you to dream and sometimes those dreams really can come true in different ways.
Since 1992 Theatretrain students have been performing at venues such as the London Palladium, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Royal Albert Hall. Our theatre schools across the United Kingdom have been providing young people with top quality part-time performing arts classes at weekends for almost 30 years. Without the cost of attending an expensive full-time stage school, Theatretrain is an excellent place to start your career in the performing arts. For further information about our weekly lessons in acting, singing, and dancing visit www.theatretrain.co.uk.