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How to… engage young people in acting

David Lloyd. Photo: NGYT
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1. Feelings first

When I ask young people at Next Generation Youth Theatre why they keep coming back, the resounding response is less about their art and more about how they feel personally. Young people need to feel secure and valued – they deserve to feel believed in. It is our job to show them we have faith in them so they can realise their potential as people and, hopefully, the next generation of theatremakers.

2. Give them a voice

Allow young people to take part in the creative process by devising their own theatre. You then play the role of facilitator, helping them develop their ideas. This approach allows young people to take ownership of their work. They feel valued and trusted to express their ideas and feelings. As Michelle, one of our participants, says: “It’s all about giving us a voice. I love it when productions are devised as a group, because it allows young people to feel heard and validated. The shows are more raw and honest as a result. People become more engaged with something when they put across a message they are passionate about, especially if they feel ignored elsewhere.”

3. Group work works

The ensemble is a key feature of how we work as a shared voice, and physicality is essential to help young people connect with one another. The ensemble has the potential to deliver performances with great strength, physically and vocally. Through shared expression, young people feel a sense of oneness – they are brought together, feeling stronger in number and less alone. There is a lot to be said for activities that create a feeling of community. If it works in football, why not theatre?

David Lloyd is co-founder and director of Next Generation Youth Theatre in Luton. He was talking to John Byrne