I ❤ YT: Best of the Fest
While many of us are missing performing arts, something we can all be grateful for is the new and inventive ways that theatre and dance are being brought straight to our screens at home. In the month that should’ve seen the Chrysalis festival showcase young talent in Edinburgh, Youth Theatre Arts Scotland (YTAS) will be hosting the I Heart YT festival online, inviting audiences and young thespians to watch, learn, and celebrate youth theatre even when we can’t be together to enjoy it. Over the course of the week, there will be workshops, discussions, and watch parties. Some of the performances are exclusive to the festival, but here are some shows to look out for:
Showcasing the talents of its young cast from the RSC Juniors, The Jump is a cleverly crafted short film about a young woman struggling to cope with the loss of her mother and the realities of the world around her. Turning to technology to make new friends and provide a much-needed distraction, she discovers a social media platform that is not all that it seems. Stories of trying to find connection online in a time of need have never been more relevant, and this Black Mirror-inspired piece airs our collective concerns about being too absorbed in seemingly meaningless tasks whilst the world spirals out of control. You can watch The Jump at the watch party on the 25th.
Taking a lighter approach, Solar Bears Deaf Youth Theatre’s Zoombies is the product of coming up with a new scene every week and putting the pieces together to make a fun, self-aware comedy. We see different aspects of British life that we experienced over lockdown, glitching between scenes of family, cafés, and the news, as society is not only faced with a global pandemic but a zombie apocalypse as well. Embracing the discontinuity of individually filming scenes, the final product is bursting with creativity and some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. If there were ever a piece of youth theatre to be placed in a time capsule to tell the future about 2020, it would be Zoombies. You join the watch party to see it on November 25th.
On the 26th YTAS will be hosting a watch party of shorts, where you can join in and watch pieces such as Shadows at Night and Leekdown. From the music youth groups of Tinderbox comes Shadows at Night, a music video which accompanies a song of the same name. The song has a moody yet optimistic vibe, as though a mix between Fleetwood Mac and Radiohead. The wet-on-wet watercolour style of the visuals accompanies it perfectly. The watch party will also get to enjoy Diane Stewart’s Leekdown, which is one of six monologues by emerging playwrights commissioned by Edinburgh-based company Strange Town. Performed in the style of a YouTube or TikTok video, we’re introduced to Charlie, who has taken up a new hobby in creating “Franken-veg” and documenting it online. Reflecting on loneliness, regrowth, and the need for validation, it’s a piece that does exactly what youth theatre should do – address themes that are particularly relevant to young people and speaking on them from an articulate, balanced young person’s perspective. All six of the monologues are being shared as part of the festival, including the fantastic Annie & Mary by Jennifer Adam. Suzanne O’Brien plays a young woman who describes her experience of delivering food to an elderly woman as they try to communicate and understand each other, bonding over music to bridge the generational gap. O’Brien gives an engrossing performance, and at a time when we are being forced to confront our societal neglect of the elderly, it is uncommonly moving for a piece that is less than seven minutes long. It proves that they are both talents to watch.
There many more performances and events to be enjoyed as part of the festival; work by Dundee Rep, Overdrive Dance Company, Toonspeak, Wonderfools, and many more, all of which will be followed up with a post-show Q&A with the teams behind them. From the 23rd you can also find the full performance playlist of the festival and watch at your leisure, including all of the Strange Town monologues. You can find full details and register for events at https://www.ytas.org.uk/iheartyt/. It’s hard being apart when theatre is such a big part in our lives, but it’s events like this that remind us just how creative, innovating, and resilient young people and theatre-makers can be.