50 year celebrations with hopes to perform at The National

Bucks Free Press: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1972) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1972)

A THEATRE group in Beaconsfield is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a gala dinner and a potential performance at the National Theatre.

The Young Theatre was form on January 12, 1964 in North Harrow by Ian R.Wallace, followed by a second group in Beaconsfield on May 31, 1970- put together by Ian and Aviva Wiseman.

The Harrow group closed in 1982 having given more than 300 young people the opportunity but the Beaconsfield group is still going strong and seen nearly 900 members come through its doors.

Group director, Tom McGrath, 20, said: "There’s a real sense of pride and ownership in all the work we do, and that’s something I think has always been there.

"We’ve obviously been spending a lot of time this year looking back through YT’s history. It just goes to show that people have a lifelong love for the group.

"Very few theatre groups keep going strong for 50 years, even less youth groups, and I think the fact that the members design and build the shows, as well as being responsible for marketing and finances, is its key strength. The Young Theatre is, after all, a theatre for young people, run by young people."

Many past members have gone on to work professionally, including Richard Attlee (Kenton in The Archers), William Tapley (whose credits include V for Vendetta and Holby City), Paul Bacon (the UK’s premiere Elton John tribute act) and, one of the group’s patrons, Robert Glenister who has starred in A Touch of Frost, The Café and was the only actor to star in every episode of BBC’s Hustle. The group is hosting a gala dinner for past members, and long standing friends of the group, with its founder as Guest of Honour.

The group have also entered the National Theatre Connections 2014 programme- opting to stage a challenging new play, Pronoun, which tells the tale of childhood sweethearts Josh and Isabella and their struggle with adjusting to their new life: Isabella has now become a boy.

As part of the preparation for the piece director Catherine Hiscock, 25, was invited to take part in a series of workshops in London, including a question and answer session with the playwright, Evan Placey.

Catherine said: "It was a unique experience to be able to get the writers opinion firsthand. It’s not an opportunity you would normally get so the chance to discuss the play with him, as well as the other Pronoun directors, was a great insight."

For the cast this has been a demanding play to stage and Katie Vowles, who plays the transgender Dean, has a particularly difficult part.

She said: "There aren’t really any parts like this in other plays so it’s not as if you can utilise past experiences. I’ve found a number of people over the internet in various stages of their transition and talking with them about their journey has been a massive help."

Pronoun performs with a supporting programme on February 26, 27 and 28 at the Curzon Centre, Beaconsfield. Tickets from £7. The Young Theatre Gala Dinner is on March 1, also at the Curzon Centre. Tickets for both events can be booked from www.youngtheatre.org.uk

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