In my younger years, I was something of a thespian.
Every Saturday afternoon was spent at Gravesend’s Matinee Stage School, as I harboured dreams of being the next Jim Carrey. He was cool back in the 1990s.
Most of this was rehearsal but one year, when I was about 14, the school announced it was putting on a major production. New high-intensity Tuesday night drama classes were run.
Keen as I was, I went every week. It was announced the production would be Wind in the Willows and it would be staged at the Woodville Halls. To misquote the great Chris Kamara, I was fighting like a beaver to get a good part.
I got it. I was to be Badger and all seemed wonderful. I learned my lines and looked forward to my theatrical debut.
Then disaster struck when the school announced they were cancelling the show with a little over two months to go.
They said not enough people were putting the effort in. Apparently not enough of the leading cast members had learned their lines (I had learned them all, barring my final scene.)
I was devastated. Months of work hard had gone to waste. In the end, we performed one scene from the play as part of a wider Matinee Stage School gala at the Woodville Halls, but it was scant consolation. My big theatrical debut had been taken away from me and my faith in the school had been dashed to pieces.
I left shortly afterwards, disillusioned with it all. I never went back to acting, despite always being something of a performer at heart. The school eventually closed, a couple of years later, presumably damaged by having to cancel such a major show. Only in the last few months was the weather-beaten sign removed from the terraced house which was home to the school on Parrock Street.
It was this memory which made me hope, wholeheartedly, that as many young actors as possible take up their chance to be a part of the National Theatre’s youth project at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre next year.
It was announced this week the theatre has been chosen to work with up to 20 youth theatres to bring together a festival of young drama in May, 2013.
Youth theatres will be offered up to 10 plays to produce, all commissioned by the National Theatre. All the plays are by today’s top writers, including Lenny Henry, Howard Brenton and Jim Cartwright.
Called NT Connections 2013, a production of each play will then be chosen to be performed at the National Theatre, London, in June.
With the focus so much on sporting legacy right now with the Olympics, this is a chance for Kent’s young people to be a part of a different future generation – to be part of the nation’s acting legacy. It is a chance to show off some real talent, at a venue which has become such a symbol of Kent’s theatrical capability.
The production I had hoped to be in was a private venture by a small theatre group which, sadly, went horribly wrong. This is a chance to be a part of something much bigger – and could lead on to something huge for some of Kent’s young acting prodigies.
- NT Connections 2013 will take place at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Tuesday, May 7 to Thursday, May 9, 2013. For details on how to get involved, call 01227 787787.