YMT blog

Rachel Bird - Youth Music Theatre UK - YMT Alumni

An interview with Rachel Bird


Currently training at Guildford School of Acting, YMT Alumni Rachel Bird chats about her YMT experience.

I've been with YMT since 2005 starting with a Skills Course and then went on to do Last Tango (2006), Great Expectations (2007), Endangered (2008) and then finally Macbeth in (2012) - my last one before I became too old! Each one has been as great as the last if not better each year.

Youth Music Theatre UK - Rachel Bird - YMT Alumni

(Rachel as Hecate in Macbeth, 2012)

Do you still keep in contact with any YMTers?

Yes I still talk to a number of people from Macbeth, Endangered and Great Expectations. But also the creative teams - namely, Stuart Harvey, Rachel Birch-Lawson, Peta Lily, Gerry Flanagan and Annemarie Lewis Thomas.

Why should people get involved with YMT?

It's a company that allows you to be who you are, to be creative by inputting to the project. You can share your own talents and be inspired by others in a comfortable, supportive environment.

What would your dream role be?

My dream role right now would be Molly in Ghost. But when I'm old would be Miss Hannigan in Annie.

Favourite Shows?

Ghost, Dogfight, In the Heights, Loserville, Bring it On: the musical, Next to Normal, Showboat, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun. And so many more...


Tips for YMT Auditions:

Be yourself. That's who they want to see. Try not to present them and idea of what you think the panel want. They want to see your talents and what you can individually do. Also enjoy it. It's workshop based for a reason. So that you can relax and have fun.

What/who should young people research in the arts?

National Theatre Connections plays (it's always young people performing them), Danielle Tarento (a producer of lots of new musicals), Katie Lipson (Aria Entertainment, again lots of new musicals), Benjamin Newsome (Casting Director). Also read the West End Producer's book; it's very good and very funny. If you are someone that is wanting to go and train in Musical Theatre, when you go to see a show always look in the programme at where they have trained because that can always help you with your choice of schools. Look at who went there and what they are doing now.

Favourite food?

Roast Dinner. Preferably Toby Carvery all you can eat.

Ideal holiday?

Somewhere hot with sand and sea. Maybe Bora-Bora but I do love Cyprus.


THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

Scone (gone) for one, scone (stone) for more then one!


Fight Like a Girl - Youth Music Theatre UK

FIGHT LIKE A GIRL - by Nick Stimson


Award-winning writer and Associate Director of Theatre Royal Plymouth, NICK STIMSON, chats with us about YMT's new musical FIGHT LIKE A GIRL, which will premiere at Dean Clough this summer.

We're looking for a group of young people who aren't afraid of a real challenge and want to tell a compelling contemporary story in a contemporary way. It's going to be a physically and emotionally demanding show with members of the company learning how to box and all will be heavily involved in the creative process -  so, if you haven't already, you should book your audition and come join us.


About the show:

Fight Like a Girl is the story of Shan and her younger sister Jess. Shan’s been fighting all her life. Fighting the world around her. Fighting the system. Fighting herself.

Aged just 12 and 10, Shan and Jess are removed from their abusive home by Social Services and placed into care. Once in the system the two girls lose contact with each other as Shan is moved from foster home to foster home. Each failed attempt to settle ignites Shan's aggression and a reluctance to trust those around her. Shan’s overriding wish is to be reunited with her sister but, unable to control her anger, Shan finds herself locked in a Young Offenders Institution: the end of the line. In her cell her rage consumes her and she vows to take revenge on those who have hurt her.

Back on the streets Shan encounters a group of discontented young people. Among them she recognises Zoe, a friend from the past. Zoe takes Shan to a boxing gym and suddenly Shan’s life changes. Shan's a natural. A born boxer. A real talent as a fighter. Talent enough to go to the top. So begins Shan’s journey to being a champion. Along the way she is reunited with her sister and then, quite unexpectedly, for the first time in her short life, Shan falls in love...

Every character in this show, female and male, will have a complete journey. It’s a hard-hitting show in more ways than one, full of street dance, up-tempo music, heart-breaking story and comedy, but at its heart, it's a story about love.


Why should people get involved with YMT?

Being involved in a YMT show is the experience of a lifetime. It is very demanding but at the same time incredibly rewarding. To be involved is to shape new musical theatre. Company members will work intensively and will learn a wide range of new skills. They will also be working directly with musical theatre professionals and will discover they are not patronised but challenged to deliver performances of the highest standard.

Favourite show?



What/who should young people research in the arts?

Go and see the great musicals. Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Oklahoma! etc. Go and see any musical - even if it’s terrible you’ll learn something.

Ideal holiday? 

A warn and deserted island miles from a phone.

THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

I’m from Devon, the home of the scone. (As in ‘gone’. Anything else is wrong.) Also it’s cream on first followed by the jam.

If you want to take part in FIGHT LIKE A GIRL or one of our other seven shows in the YMT 2016 Season, book your audition NOW!

Sonum Batra - Youth Music Theatre UK

Meet the 2016 Auditions Team - Sonum Batra


Composer and Musical Director-extraordinaire SONUM BATRA says what she's looking for from auditionees.

Training: I trained at King's College London and now work as Music Director for lots of different theatre companies. I'm looking to study orchestration for film next.. so watch this space!

What are you looking for from auditionees?

I like watching singers who really perform their songs with honesty and intention, rather than just standing there and singing. It's lovely watching people enjoying themselves and not being afraid to just... go for it!


Tips for auditionees:

My first would be to NOT be nervous! Come into the workshop and enjoy yourselves. Don't be afraid to try things out of your comfort zone... oh, and pin/tie your hair back, and bring water!

Why should people get involved with YMT?

At YMT you not only get the chance to rehearse and perform a musical, but you get to be involved with the creative process. You work with composers and writers and perform a brand new piece of theatre. It's a really exciting thing to be involved in. You also get the chance to improve your skills across all three disciplines, whilst being surrounded by a room full of people who have all the same interests as you!

Favourite show? 

My all time favourites are Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods (I even wrote my dissertation on it!) I think Stephen Sondheim is an absolute genius! I'm a big fan of Punchdrunk and really loved The Drowned Man.


What/who should young people research in the arts?

Anything that inspires you. Go and see as much different stuff as possible. Theatre companies like Punchdrunk and Phizzical are a couple of my favourites..

Favourite food?

I love Indian food... oh and hummus. I could live on the stuff!


Ideal holiday?

Somewhere with a good hiking trail, salsa and lots of coffee - (so South America!) I think Colombia, Cuba and Argentina have to be my favourites there. Oh and I really want to go back to Israel. I have Kilimanjaro next on my list, as well as Japan and Iceland. I don't think I can pick an ideal holiday, I think I just want to see the whole world!


THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

I'm northern ! Scone / gone!

Don't forget to read all our entries in the Meet the Auditions Team series and don't forget to book your audition!

Stuart Harvey

Meet the 2016 Auditions Team - Stuart Harvey


Director and YMT Practitioner STUART HARVEY tells us what to do in auditions.

Training: I trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School on their postgraduate Directors' Course. Since then I have worked as a freelance theatre director and playwright. I spent a year at the Chichester Festival Theatre as a Youth Theatre Director and for the past 3 years I have been Head of Acting at the Wilkes Academy, a full time performing arts college training performers in musical theatre.

What are you looking for from auditionees?

Truth! All too often performers split the three disciplines into three different performance styles - the amount of times I have witnessed tight lipped, silence dancing or singers staring into a dark middle distance whilst standing perfectly still is maddening. Remember all performance is storytelling and to do that to the best capability a performer must find the truth of that situation.

Tips for auditionees:

Just be yourself, you are the best you there is and that is all we can ask of you. I like to see the audition as a workshop more than an audition, I just want to see how you work with other performers and how you use the different stimuli offered by the practitioners. We aren't there to trick you or trip you up or see what you can't do, we are there to see what you can do.

Why should people get involved with YMT?

I have been a practitioner with the company for eight years now and have worked on numerous productions with dozens of of professionals and 100s of young people. There really is no other experience like it, it is truly unique. To workshop and create a new piece of theatre is probably the most exhilarating and rewarding things you can do in this profession and YMT gives young people the opportunity to experience that. I have nothing against established pieces of musical theatre but to be able to develop new work with some of the best practitioners in the UK along with the stars of the future is brilliant.

Favourite show?

I think the production that has had the biggest influence on me would be Complicite's Mnemonic - it really showed me at a young age just what was possible on stage through the inventiveness of cast and creatives.

What/who should young people research in the arts?

I am a huge fan of anything Simon McBurney, artistic driector of Complicite, does, his constant thirst for the new is inspiring. I enjoy the work of Punchdrunk, Headlong, Gecko and Kneehigh - all Bristish companies who are taking their influences from further afield. I am a huge fan of the theatre director Ninagawa - his work has a beauty not often seen on the UK stage.

Playwrights to look at would be Shakespeare (of course), Chekhov, Peter Shaffer, Philip Ridley, Martin McDonagh and Jez Butterworth.


Favourite food?

Vegetarian sushi is probably top of my list but I also love tapas, Greek cuisine or Thai (all vegetarian options)

Ideal holiday? 

I find it hard to find time to go on holiday - the laptop is never too far away so I think it would have to be somewhere very remote so that there would be no wifi connection.


THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

Scone (gone) but would normally just order a black coffee.


Don't forget to meet the rest of the auditions team in our 'Meet the Auditions Team' series. And, of course, don't forget to book your audition!


Vince Manna - Photo: Kevin Murphy

Meet the 2016 Auditions Team - Vincent Manna


Choreographer and Movement Director Vincent Manna offers advice to prospective auditionees.

Training: I trained Rambert Dance School. After dancing professionally I then went to train at The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art where I now teach and create movement theatre. I am also a freelance actor.

What are you looking for from auditionees?

Commitment. Approaching the audition with a huge sense of play. Generosity. Courage. Taking Risks. Taking the work seriously, but not themselves too seriously in the work. Be open to learning new things. Being Adaptive.

Tips for auditions:

Bring loose clothing. Bring Water. Turn up early. Listen to what is being asked of you and then THROW YOURSELVES INTO IT. Have fun. Take risks. Be open to working in an ensemble.

Why should people get involved with YMT?

It will build your confidence. It will develop your singing, acting and movement skills. You will get valuable experience in performing on stage and in playing different spaces. You will understand what it means to work in an ensemble. You will get to contribute your ideas to the final piece. You will have more fun than you can possibly imagine! You will make friends for life. You will learn life skills as well as performance skills. You get to be away from your parents. You make a piece of magic in a very short space of time.

Favourite show?

Punchdrunk’s Faust

What/who should young people research in the arts?

Gecko. Punchdrunk. DV8. Frantic Assembly. Complicite. And the work of Pina Bausch.

Favourite food?

Egg Soldiers

Ideal holiday?

Walking the camino in Spain. Or relaxing on a sun soaked beach on some isolated Greek island


THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

Scone (Gone)

After researching all those fantastic theatre/movement/dance companies, make sure you book your audition to join the YMT Company! Book here.