In place of their usual summer musical, Leeds Grand Youth Theatre (LGYT) did present an evening of original writing, songs and choreography in a special, one-off Summer Sharing for friends and family on Saturday 31 July. This will be accompanied by three short behind-the-scenes films by film-maker Kerry Maule to document and celebrate everything they have achieved despite the pandemic.
Founded in 2012, LGYT is headed by Leeds Heritage Theatres Artistic Director Young Peoples Theatre, Lizi Patch. Members develop both performing arts and life skills through weekly term-time workshops, including acting, dance/movement, physical theatre and vocal/singing training. In past years, they have performed numerous big-name musicals from Little Shop of Horrors to The Wizard of Oz. However, this year has looked quite different.
Sessions have continued throughout lockdown, initially via a weekly video with members sending in creative responses to different themes. The groups then moved onto Zoom, using their journeys through the pandemic as inspiration for the creative work they have produced throughout the year. Despite the difficulties, LGYT has continued to be there for the members.
As Lizi writes: We’ve all changed, physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively – and what the young people will share has grown out of these 16 months, because the youth theatre are not performing someone else’s words this year, they are performing their own and despite all the bubbles bursting, isolations, social distancing, rehearsing in ever smaller groups and every day bringing a new unknown challenge, the journey is everything, and what a journey it has been.
The sharing is split into three parts for the three different age groups:
Group One, aged 8-11, will be performing Where Are We Now?, a short new play with original songs inspired by the people and events surrounding the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
The Royal Armouries were LGYT’s original collaborators and the Battle of Agincourt Diorama on display there served as inspiration for this piece.
Group Two, aged 11-14, were given the theme Both Sides Now. After listening to the Joni Mitchell song of the same name, the participants used the lyrics/themes to springboard into their own songwriting. The resulting five songs to be performed in Both Sides Now tell us something about what moves them, what frustrates them and what gives them hope.
Group Three, aged 14-17, DID perform Stars, an original musical written by 16-year-old Gabriel Owens, who has been a member of the Youth Theatre for eight years. Lizi says that To be able develop and stage extracts of his new musical, written during lockdown has been one of the absolute highlights of this incredibly challenging year.
Gabriel was inspired by the class divide highlighted during lockdown. While those living in affluence could find comfort in the space and sanctuary provided by their homes, for many of the urban working class, life was confined to cramped and crowded conditions, whole families trapped in flats, vying for living and working space. Suddenly, Britain was once again subject to profound class divide, and angered by this, I wanted to write about it…
Stars follows the story of Joe Smith who reaches for the stars despite coming from the notorious Skeglington Council Estate and, as a result, being rejected at every turn. When accused of a crime he swears he did not commit, Joe must fight for his future, and to stifle the voices in his head.
As Gabriel describes, â€œIn short, Starsis a musical inspired by lockdown, class, and the belief that the stars belong to everyone.â€
LGYTs Summer Sharing is at City Varieties Music Hall on Saturday 31st July
Please note tickets are only available to friends and family