The group competed against 250 youth theatre groups across the UK to make it to the final ten selected by judges to take part in the 2023 Connections Festival. They will perform Strangers Like Me, a new play by Ed Harris.
The Crescent Arts Youth Theatre is run by the Cresent Arts Centre, a cultural hub in South Belfast, funded by the Arts Council of Northern through the National Lottery. The group, which meet every Saturday, is open to young people across the city and beyond, aged 11-18. It offers high quality drama tuition at a low cost, with creativity, community and kindness at its core.
The Connections Festival is an annual nationwide youth theatre festival, now in its 28th year. Groups compete for the opportunity to perform one of ten new plays from established and emerging playwrights including Lisa McGee (Derry Girls) and Shamser Sinha (Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree). These ten plays, specially commissioned by Connections for young people to perform, explore themes of justice, grief, love, teamwork, friendship, rural life, the end of the world and the climate emergency. Participants are involved in all aspects of the theatre making process both on and off stage.
Looking forward to the festival Andrea Grimason, group leader of The Crescent Arts Youth Theatre, said, “Inspiration, challenges and empowerment for young people are at the heart of this creative programme, there’s nothing else quite like it. The Crescent Arts Youth Theatre being selected for the National Theatre Connections Festival has been a proud and poignant moment in our young people’s lives. This experience will inform and shape their futures, of this I have no doubt.”
For the final production on the Dorfman stage, CYP with have the experience of working with the world class team at the National, including costumes, staging and lighting.
Welcoming the news Siobhán Molloy, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Connections festival is one of the most important events within the world of youth theatre and to have a Northern Ireland group selected as one of the final 10 plays to be performed on the illustrious National Theatre stage is a huge achievement. Thanks to National Lottery players and money raised for good causes, the Arts Council is delighted to support the Crescent and all of the fantastic work that goes on there every week through workshops and classes like CYT. We congratulate everyone involved in this amazing production.”
CYT provide a safe space for young people to develop their performance skills and experience, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of how a working theatre operates.
Reflecting on the group and their forthcoming performance at Connections 2023 CYP member Jessica McGrath commented, “The Crescent’s youth theatre is the place to be yourself, to explore the world, to find your voice and find your people. Strangers Like Me has been a challenging play tackling the big issues of grief and loss, rarely talked about but universally experienced. We’ve loved the humour and the honesty and we have loved our physical approach to the performance and the chance to perform at the National Theatre as part of the Connections Festival is amazing.”
The Crescent Arts Youth Theatre company will perform Strangers Like Me by Ed Harris at the National Theatre on Saturday 24th June. For full details of the Connections 2023 programe, go to www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
There will be a free open rehearsal of the play taking place at the Crescent Arts Centre on Sunday 18th June as part of Belfast Book Festival. For more details contact https://crescentarts.org
About Strangers Like Me by Ed Harris
A play about grief, masculinity, relationships and friendship.
Elbow's best friend, Hamster, has unexpectedly died. Everyone expects Elbow to be grieving... right? But Elbow isn’t sure how to do it. Privately, Elbow is beginning to feel they weren’t even as close as everyone makes out. It would be better if everyone just left Elbow alone – his mum, dad, stupid big brother, Donut, but especially all those annoying kids at school pretending they really care by writing poems, singing songs and holding a vigil at Elbow and Hamster’s favourite meeting place. Who do they think they are? Elbow doesn’t know. He just has a strange feeling inside – an absence of feeling at all.
Notes to Editors
About the Arts Council of Northern Ireland
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead funding and development agency for the Arts providing support to arts projects throughout the region, through its Treasury and The National Lottery funds. Our funding enables artists and arts organisations to increase access to the arts across society and deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach.
Every week National Lottery players raise more than £30M for good causes.
More than £47 billion has now been raised by National Lottery players to support good causes since 1994.
More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funding, the equivalent of around 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district.