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Belgrade Young Company take part in Festival of European Youth Theatre

Posted on 13 August 2018

Earlier this summer, members of our Belgrade Young Company took part in a pioneering event at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Running 30 July – 3 August, the first ever Festival of European Youth Theatre brought together arts professionals with young participants from across the UK and Europe in a large-scale celebration of what the field has to offer.

As well as taking part in workshops, talks and more, our talented young performers revived their acclaimed 2017 production RISE, and had the chance to experience work by other international groups. Here, Young Company members Rachel Elizabeth and Beth Bell recount their experiences at the event.

Rise

Having just spent a week at the European Festival of Youth Theatre with the Belgrade Young Company, we have been struck by the considerable influence the Belgrade Theatre has had on us as creators.

The festival was celebrating work for, with and by young creatives, and because the Belgrade has fostered a community that supports actors from the very start of their journey, we were able to confidently network with international creatives from 13 companies representing four countries. This was possible only because of the community work at the Belgrade Theatre.

Many members of the Belgrade Young Company have spent years developing our skills and being given incredible opportunities in the youth theatre groups run by the Belgrade, and that sense of community fostered by youth theatres could be seen in all the companies participating in the festival. It became clear that the high standards of theatre shared by all the companies were a direct result of investment into the lives of young people by their local theatres.

As we spoke to members of other companies about their work, I found that in one way or another, the creators were always inspired by the idea of home. Whether this was their city, family, or theatre, the shows were telling the stories of the actors’ communities. Home was at the core of their creativity. The Belgrade Young Company is no different. Rise tells our stories from home, demonstrating how we create communities and find support in one another.

Rise

The personal experiences of performers at the festival were clear, and vulnerability was at the heart of the work the different groups shared at Birmingham REP, and it will shape the future of European Theatre. Not only was this vulnerability seen on stage and in our conversations with other creatives, but also in our friendships within the company.

The festival also gave us the opportunity to grow even closer as a company of young women, giving us an opportunity to live, learn, and play in a close proximity to each other. This was a blessing as we were able to explore a wide variety of theatre together, sharing it with the other companies.

The individual authenticity of the companies challenged our own creative perspective, showing us how limited our understanding of international theatre was. Polish company Assitej Polska, for example, presented both live and recorded interviews alongside abstract movement sequences, in an exploration of the effect of punk music and sex on their culture across the decades, which was as insightful as it was entertaining. Their blunt approach to their work felt refreshing in contrast to the subtle social criticisms that pervade British theatre.

The highlight of the festival was having the honour of experiencing a glimpse of the future of theatre and meeting the people who will help to shape it. We spent the week sharing with and being inspired by the artistic directors, designers, producers and scriptwriters of the future. Judging from what we saw, the future of European theatre will be founded in community, nurturing young creatives to reach their potential just as we have been nurtured to reach our own.

Rise

Moving forward as a company, we have been re-inspired to pursue creative authenticity, honouring each other’s stories and telling our own. I only wish that we could have had more time to see and explore the work of the other young companies, but everything must come to an end.

The love, support, inspiration and blossoming friendships will never be forgotten. The festival and the people we shared it with have positively impacted on our growing understanding of ourselves and the people around us, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

The Belgrade Theatre runs a range of youth theatre groups which you can find out more about here. For more information about how you can support our work with young people in the community, visit our Support Us pages.