YMT blog

Children of the New Forest - Youth Music Theatre UK

Creating a world like this on stage is both exciting and problematic


Hear some fascinating behind the scenes insights from the Ellis Kerkhoven, Director of YMT's exciting new musical adaptation, Children of the New Forest.

It's 2647. A civil war has been raging for 25 years. Two factions fight for land and food: the Upholders and the Returners. With no clear victor, and a population consisting almost entirely of orphans, chaos now reigns as the last vestiges of society brakes down.

Ellis Kerkhoven

The show is set in a futuristic, dystopian version of our own world. Technology has advanced and already reached its decline after natural disasters destroyed all electronic energy production. A World unplugged. Lost and disconnected to natural resources, skills and farming techniques. The clock is ticking and it’s only a matter of time before all pre-farmed food runs out. Almost all adults are dead. And now the youth are forced to find new ways to survive...

Emma Lynch - YMT Designer, Children of the New Forest

Image by YMT Designer Emma Lynch - Children of the New Forest

Children of The New Forest explores life for young people in a War zone, the complications and prejudices that arise from being raised on a particular ‘side’ and inheriting the older generations outdated disputes. It deals with the loss of family, the denial of personal dreams and ambitions and the loss of human connection with Nature. Ultimately the main message of the show is about the necessity to break free from outdated conventions in order to obtain peace and freedom.

Many things have influenced my work in this show; from the state of the World’s current affairs to theatre productions I’ve seen recently. Director Sally Cookson’s National Theatre production of Jane Eyre inspired me with her inventive use of a ‘playground' set, and William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies provided me with the feral energy needed for a piece like Children of the New Forest. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) was a constant reference for our dystopian-yet-recognisable world too.

Children of the New Forest - Youth Music Theatre UK

Creating a world like this on stage is both exciting and problematic. I'm hoping to strike the right balance between the post-apocalyptic dystopian civilisation and it’s ever advancing surrounding natural forest habitat. The show uses the essence of the original novel as a stimuli only, so we’ve taken full artistic licence and created a new version of the story that feels relevant to current events whilst suggesting what a future could look like if we allow the dark side of history to repeat itself over and over. The idea behind the design of the show is to combine elements of both the derelict futuristic City with the wild natural force of the Forest. Just like the play’s inhabitants - it’s on the edge! Feral - with remnants of a lost society being reclaimed by the powers of nature.

I’m so excited to be working with the talented young people at YMT again. This production is going to give everyone a chance to tap into their passions, explore who they are and what they believe in - and create a show that will mean something to the audience watching. As with all my shows, I intend this one to be very physical, with puppetry and object manipulation being made possible by the ’salvaged junk world’ we inhabit. It’s fast paced with loads of locations so we’ll never stand still for long. The task is to make sure the audience can follow the plot and know where we are at all times, whilst feeling fully connected with the characters story. YMT always manage to discover and bring together the most talented young artists in the country (and beyond!).

Ellis Kerkhoven - YMT Director

Don't miss Children of the New Forest, Barbican Theatre, Plymouth, 26-27 August | Booking

YMT Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Hardy's finest novel has injustice as it's central theme


"Thus, the thing began… why was she doomed to be seen and coveted that day by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and desired one..."

YMT is excited to present Tess of the d’Urbervilles being performed at the Theatre Royal, Winchester from the 1st-3rd of September.

What is Tess of the d’Urbervilles about?

Free-spirited country girl Tess Durbeyfield knows nothing of the world outside her own village but then she finds a job that will change her life forever. When she is caught between her wealthy, manipulative, cousin Alec and the handsome, educated, farmer Angel Clare, a dark love story unfolds leading to seduction, abandonment, and murder. Tragedy is unavoidable as Tess finds she is powerless to change her fate.

We caught up with Director, Gerry Flanagan, to gain some insights into his inspirations for the peice, and what to expect from this production.

Gerry has chosen to go down the route of devising. There will be no initial script. This is a brilliant way to not only allow the show to organically evolve over the rehearsal period, but it adds no limits to where the production can go and the involvement of the cast in its development.

Why Did Tess of the d'Urbervilles stand out as a piece of literature that you wanted to turn into a musical?

“It is Hardy's finest novel and has injustice as it's central theme. Other themes are the domination of women by men and the changing ideas of social class. The novel is rich in emotion and desire as Tess struggles to be true to herself and her dreams. All these elements make her story ripe for musical theatre”

What style will the musical take?

“This will be a strong ensemble piece, an exciting blend of physical theatre, expressive movement and playfulness. There will irreverence but no parody as Tess reveals to us the beauty of tragedy.”

What are you most excited about in this production?

“Working with such a talent group of young performers to release the emotions and dreams of a young women who struggles fearlessly against men and society who constantly try to master her.”


What can you expect from this musical adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Director Gerry Flanagan, alongside award-winning composer Pippa Cleary, brings this dark love story to life with an exciting blend of physical theatre and compelling songs mixed with vibrant storytelling and physical comedy. Set against Wessex countryside and Winchester, Flanagan plays with Hardy’s ingredients yet remains faithful to his themes. Taking a dynamic approach to classic British theatre, this extraordinary love triangle plays out against the backdrop of late 19th Century country society. Flanagan’s wealth of experience as clown, commedia specialist and director, alongside award-winning composer Pippa Cleary, brings the piece to life in an unexpected and energetic way.

Gerry Flanagan is Artistic Director of Shifting Sands Theatre, founded 1998 to create stimulating, accessible theatre that is both comic and emotionally rich, currently touring The King Lear. A teacher at Universities and colleges for over 20 years, Flanagan has run a wide range of devised projects. Further credits include Box to Hawaii, Fools!Fools!Fools! and Don’t Let Go!

Pippa Cleary is a composer, writer and musical director, who has written many shows with collaborator and book writer Jake Brunger. Credits include The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, and MTM award winning shows Jet Set Go! and The Great British Soap Opera. Pippa won the Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for Composition for Musicals in January 2012 and in 2011 she won The Times Christmas Carol Competition with In the Snow. Pippa trained in composition and singing at Bristol University, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome and L’Université d’Aix en Provence.

The show will be performed in Winchester, which is partly where the original book is set. Working in the environment in which the characters belong to will help the cast gain a greater understanding into their character’s psyches, and the atmosphere of the original story. Don't miss Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

1 – 3 September | Theatre Royal, Winchester | Booking
Friday: 7.30pm | Saturday: 2.30pm & 7.30pm | Sunday: 2.30pm
Tickets: £16 / £10 concessions / £45 families


YMT - Children of the New Forest

From the Hunger Games to Andrew Lloyd Webber Children of the New Forest is unlike anything else


YMT is excited to present their brand-new musical adaptation Children of the New Forest.

Children of the New Forest is a musical adaptation for a new generation brought to life by Writer Caroline Wigmore and Composer Jen Green, together they have written and composed a contemporary, dark and atmospheric peice of music theatre. Hear all about the making of the musical from this creative duo as Caroline and Jen discuss their process and their shared creativity. You can also pick up some helpful tips from the experts on 'how to' write a musical! More below.

What is the main message in the story?

This show is about war and the impact it has on ordinary people's lives - whether they're living in 17th century England, the current day, or the future. How would we react if we were born into a different time or place? Would we live up to the high standards that we hold fictional characters to? This is especially potent in today’s society.

What influenced your work on this show?

Not what people would expect, but the genre of science fiction has been a huge inspiration of this production; especially in the development of the world of the show. Some books and movies that have inspired this world are Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and the sci-fi classics including Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. In terms of the musicality, the creative team have deliberately chosen to give this show a ‘folk rock’ sound. Inspirations have been drawn from a wide variety of artists ranging from Duncan Sheik and Andrew Lloyd Webber to Bob Dylan and Jimmy Eat World.

Jen Green:

“I'm really looking forward to working with everyone! This is the premiere of the show, and a fantastic opportunity to get involved in shaping the characters and the musical feel of the show - we can't wait to bring it to life."




How long does it take to write a musical?

"Usually it takes years (sometimes a lot of years). That doesn't mean that we are working exclusively on a single show, though. Many writers have multiple shows in progress at the same time, and will put one show on pause because of a commission for another show."

Do you ever fight with your writing partner?

"Ha. No, but we sometimes have different opinions. Usually if we can't settle on something, we try it out in a reading or on stage.  Simply telling another writer that you don't like what they have written isn't helpful - If you don't believe they have made the best choice, it is best to respectfully explain why, and also to offer another idea."

How do you pick stories to tell on stage?

"We look at stories that excite us. Excitement isn't enough though, there needs to be a reason why the characters are singing - otherwise the story might be better suited as a play, film or book. Ambitious central characters who go through some sort of major change is another thing we look for."

If I want to write a script, where do I start?

"Pick a short story with a clear beginning, middle and end.
A story can be as short as once scene.
Decide who your central characters are and start with few characters, perhaps 2 or 3, and make sure they are very different from each other.
Demonstrate what makes the characters different from the other characters through action: for example if your character has a bad temper, put them in a situation where the audience can see what makes them lose their temper, and how the other characters feel about it."

If I want to write a song, where do I start?

"Musical theatre songs often use a structure which is called AABA. It means that the song starts with a musical verse (A), and then the verse repeats (A) with perhaps a slight variation. Then a different musical idea - often called the bridge - is introduced (B) and then the verse (A) repeats. This is a fantastic structure for developing a character's emotional journey. There are plenty of exceptions that don't follow this rule though! Experiment with taking your favourite musical theatre song, analysing its structure, and then using that as a starting point for your own song."


Book & Lyrics – Caroline Wigmore: Caroline Wigmore is a London based musical theatre writer and composer originally from Minnesota. She holds a BA in Musical Theatre Writing from the University of Minnesota and a MA in Musical Theatre Writing from University of London, Goldsmiths. She has a particular interest in folklore, classic literature and historical pieces. The Van Winkle concept recording, which was released under SimG Productions, was nominated for Best New Concept Album 2014 by Broadway World.

Music – Jen Green: Jen is a composer, orchestrator and arranger. She has written extensively for theatre and musical theatre and regularly writes with Caroline Wigmore. Their shows include The Legend of White Bear Lake (YMT 2016), The Bachelor Girls (YMT 2015, Weston College 2016) and Van Winkle - a folk musical (S&S finalist 2014).

The Children of the New Forest | 26 – 27 August | Barbican Theatre, Plymouth | Booking
Saturday: 2.30pm & 7.30pm | Sunday: 2pm
Tickets: £12 / £10 / £40 families (2 adults & 2 children)


"The Most Genius Moment in YMT History"- @alysiacall


On the 10 year anniversary of Ed Sheeran performing in YMT’s Frankenstein 2007, we posted a series of photos to our social media of Ed behind the scenes at his project in Plymouth.

What we were not expecting is our current participants Maisie Alice Lake to re-create these photos 10 years on. Here below is a side by side of these brilliant re-enactments.

The "I'm focused and repping my YMT T-shirt". 


The "I love to dance... but does she?"


The "Oh so dark but oh so bright". 


The "Oh so young, oh so fun" iconic bench picture.


And finally, the YMT Head office favourite "Is she dead...? Oh no, we're just acting". 


We commend you Maisie. Brilliant work!




Jabberwocky: Behind the Nonsense.


“Beware the Jabberwock my son, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch...”

Youth Music Theatre UK is proud to present their new musical adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky.

What is the Jabberwocky about?

Flora and Jess are two girls separated by more than a century, but a chance meeting across time leads them to a magical world beyond the mirror, where the triumph of hope rests with the power of friendship and imagination. This joyful, transformative musical production delves into an absurd world full of larger-than-life characters.


Who is the Creative Team?

This magnificent production has been created for Theatre Royal Margate, by a top-flight creative team including: award-winning Composer Rebecca Applin, with acclaimed Writer Susannah Pearse, alongside internationally-known Choreographer Heather Douglas and popular West End Director Luke Sheppard (In the Heights, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾).

Here are some quotes from the creative team about the up and coming production:

“I am thrilled about YMT’s production of Jabberwocky this coming summer.  Through the bringing together of the wonderful characters from Edward Lear's and Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems, the show is a celebration of everything that makes us different, of not fitting in with the norms of society and of relishing our individuality.  I am so looking forward to taking the show to the Theatre Royal Margate.”- Rebecca Applin


“I very much am looking forward to creating the physicality of the wonderfully quirky characters from Lewis Carroll's JABBERWOCKY.  Together with Luke Sheppard, we will create an imaginative and story driven show that will bring all disciplines of musical theatre together.  I am sure most animals tap dance...right?”- Heather Douglas


Artistic Design for Jabberwocky.

Set in two dimensions, the set is as surreal as the nonsense poems it’s based on. Inspiration has been taken from the juxtaposing modern and Victorian time frames the production is set in. Focusing on the setting of a school using black boards and chalk as a theme running throughout the set, with a chess board floor dissolving into chalk. This chess board further enforces the surreal nature of the performance by almost mimicking that it is ‘falling into place’ at the back of the stage, paralleling the fact both lead characters have ‘fallen’ into this magical and mysterious world. 

Plese see Model Box Below:

Isobel Nicolson’s work includes: The Miller's Child (Watermill theatre, Newbury), Emeli Sande's Cancer Bonus tour and arena tour (Mirrad Productions) and Dream Big (Lead Creative Schools), Design Associate for Island Nation (Arcola Theatre, London), Design Assistant and Scenic Painter for Murder for Two (Watermill Theatre, Newbury), NYTW's Romeo and Juliet (Clwyd Theatr Cymru, New Theatre, Cardiff), Sleeping Beauty (Torch Theatre, Milford Haven) and Stig of the Dump's National Tour, Costume and Puppet Assistant for Ar Waith Ar Daith by Walk the Plank (Wales Millennium Centre), Art Department/Designer for Atal and Penelope (BBC Cymru Wales).

Quotes from Cast Members.

“Last year when I found I got onto maelstrom after a long wait I was absolutely thrilled! YMT meant an awful lot to me first time round because it gave me the opportunity for me to be away for my friends for quite a long period of time. It was really great working with new people and creating a piece of amazing theatre. This year I got an early recall and the one show I wanted to get on was actually Jabberwocky so when I found out that I was on that show I was really really excited! Once again I am looking forward to making new friends and new theatre!” -Hannah.

“I'm very excited to be taking part in YMT's Jabberwocky at the beautiful Theatre Royal in Margate. Through my previous performances with YMT I know I will have an amazing experience, be surrounded by highly talented people all with the same passion as me and gain life long friends. YMT has given me incredible opportunities and it's wide variety of different types of musical theatre has hugely benefited my performing skills. Having done dance opera in 'The Dance Connection 1', a more traditional ensemble production in 'The Midnight Flower Press' and enjoyed last year's musically-talented 'What I Go To School For', the Busted musical, I'm really looking forward to the colourful, nonsensical comedic world of 'The Jabberwocky'.”- Gabriella.


Jabberwocky is being performed at Margate Theatre Royal.

Get Tickets Here: http://theatreroyalmargate.com/event/jabberwocky/

Friday, 18 August 2017 - 7:00pm to Sunday, 20 August 2017 - 2:00pm