This August, YMT will be embarking on an ambitious new project, a cutting-edge musical experience investigating the changing face of womanhood and gender expectations in the 21st century - Miss Interpreted.
For some thoughts on that state of equality within the arts we turn to Joss Whedon, American screenwriter and director.
He is best known for his trademark fantasy/sci-fi series’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, as well as the outlandish mini-series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Additionally Whedon co-wrote Pixar’s Toy Story and the meta-horror flick The Cabin in the Woods.
Most recently he has directed the critically acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing following mere days after completing his most extravagant project to date The Avengers Assemble, the third highest-grossing film of all time.
Whedon’s career has been epitomized by his razor-whited dialogue, homicidal treatment of beloved characters and the abundance of “strong” roles he writes for women.
In a 2006 speech for the organisation Equality Now, Whedon addressed the question he had been asked more than any other, a question that has come to define his work over the last two decades. He gives an abridged account of the various responses he has found himself giving to this repetitive inquiry:
“Why do you always write these strong women characters?”
“I think it's because of my mother. She really was an extraordinary,
inspirational, tough, cool, sexy, funny woman. And that's the kind of woman I've always surrounded myself with”
“Why do you write these strong women characters?”
“Because of my father. My father and my step-father had a lot do with it, because they prized wit and resolve in the women they were with, above all things, and they were among the rare men who understood that recognising somebody else's power does not diminish your own”
“So, why do you write these strong women characters?”
Well, because these stories give people strength, and I've heard it from a number of people, and I've felt it myself.
“Why do you write these strong women characters?”
Cause they're hot.
“But these strong women characters…”
“Why are you even asking me this?
How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly? Seriously? Why did you write that down? Why aren't you asking a hundred other guys why they don't write strong women characters?”
“So... why do you write these strong women characters?”
Interview 50 Continued:
“Because equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.
We need equality. Kinda now"
“So, why do you write these strong female characters?”
“Because you're still asking me that question”
Like Joss we at YMT believe that the art the theatre community creates can reflect the inequality we accept, and we should never stop uncovering and questioning that.
To watch Joss Whedon’s unabridged speech Click Here!
Saturday 16 August 2014 - 7:30pm to Sunday 17 August 2014 - 2:30pm
Halifax: Square Chapel.
***** (5 Stars)
Southwark Playhouse, London - Friday 16 May, 2014
In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse is outstanding.
The production is an explosion of colour and fun. Under the direction of Luke Sheppard, the cast are incredible. The story follows Usnavi, played brilliantly by Sam Mackay, whose parents moved from the Dominican Republic to create a new life in Washington Heights, New York. The relatively sparse but colourful set is brought to life as the action unfolds and the audience meet the characters that impact on Usnavi’s life as they all struggle to make lives for themselves.
The hilariously sassy Daniela, who owns the local beauty salon, is portrayed perfectly by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and has the entire audience in hysterics after every line or movement. With standout company numbers such as “Carnaval del Barrio” and “Alabanza” the infectious, Latin-infused music, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, isn’t a genre typically heard in musical theatre and that’s what makes it so refreshing.
The entire production is so full of energy and it's so obvious that the cast are loving it as much as the audience. It feels so honest and that is down to the passion that every member of the cast clearly has for this musical. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as did the rest of the audience who made it clear as we leapt to our feet during the blackout before the music had even ended!
The vocals are flawless, Drew McOnie’s fast-paced choreography is perfectly executed and I’ve already booked tickets to see it again. This is a production that is NOT to be missed!
In The Heights is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 7 June. Buy your tickets here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/index.php/the-large/in-the-heights/
Ankh-Morpork, the Discworld’s most notorious town is steeped in decadent squalor, with a corrosive aroma that would put most landfills to shame.
This is the setting of YMT’s stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s side-splitting novel, Soul Music. The town is the prime destination on the Disc, where many intrepid explorers go to seek fame and other people’s fortunes.
Enter Imp Y Celyn (literally translated ‘bud of the holly’) and his ensemble ‘The Band with Rocks In’ who begin taking the city by sonic storm. Soon a host of new bands spring up:
• We're Certainly Dwarfs (They Might Be Giants)
• The Whom (The Who)
• Lead Balloon (Led Zeppelin)
• Insanity (Madness)
• The Surreptitious Fabric (The Velvet Underground)
The city reverberates with the sound of tortured strings and the smashing of Stratocasters.
In tribute to Pratchett’s infamous Ankh-Morpork, YMT helps you decide which musical town is right for you. Leave behind the rain and rising rent; move to a city where there’s music in the air.
The smoke blackened spires of a grim Victorian London where murderous butchers and bakers stalk the streets.
• Gothic ambience
• Several specialist eateries
• Good standards of grooming amongst remaining city residents
• Cat abductions on the rise
• High rate of shaving related deaths
• Not suitable for vegetarians
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A small snow clad town encircling a mysterious factory; a sweet scent hangs in the air promising hidden delights behind firmly locked gates.
• Rapidly expanding confection industry
• Generous employers
• Everlasting gobstoppers
• Industrial candy floss fogs
• Oompa Loompa stag parties
• Absurd dentistry bills
Prohibition era America. A city awash with bootleg booze, controlled by sparring mobsters with a penchant for pie.
• Classy speakeasies
• Discounted pies
• Mob wars
• High dry cleaning bills
• Not suitable for lactose intolerant residents
A glamorous metropolis where fame, fornication and murder go hand in hand.
• Stylish prison inmates
• Killer cabarets
• You’re only ever one shot away from stardom
• Murderous lovers
• Corrupt courtrooms
• Another captivating killing might lose you your limelight
The Wizard of Oz
An enchanted land filled to the brim with technicolor characters and strange, fantastical creatures.
• Well-maintained highways
• Excellent standard of hygiene (courtesy of munchkin spa)
• You’re the tallest person in town
• Evil witches
• Farmhouse related injuries
• Flying monkey infestations
It’s a difficult decision, so before you make the move come visit YMT in musical Ankh-Morpork this August!
Thursday, 28 August 2014 - 7:30pm to Sunday, 31 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Rose Theatre Kingston
This July the thumping sound of Drum ‘n’ Bass cascades down the corridors of Dunsinane. An ominous beat reverberates through the dank fog of YMT's dystopian reimagining of Shakespeare's perennial horror story Macbeth. The talented YMT cast bring a new twisted take on the things that could conceivably go bump in the night.
As the host of ghosts, witches, cybergoths and neon-clad ravers waltz towards us through the apocalyptic murk this summer, YMT takes a retrospective on past attempts to set The Bard to music. The triumphs and the tragedies!
West Side Story (Romeo & Juliet)
Director Jerome Robbins transported Shakespeare’s iconic romance, Romeo and Juliet, to the boroughs of 1960s New York, where the streetlight crossed lovers were reborn. Replacing swords with scissor kicks and punches with pliés this vibrant adaptation remains exhilarating and poignant today.
Fun Fact: In the film adaptation of the musical Elvis Presley was approached to play the lead role of Tony, but Col. Tom Parker turned the studio down. If Elvis had done the movie, he'd have ended up playing opposite real-life ex-girlfriend Natalie Wood.
The Lion King (Hamlet)
If Hamlet were equipped with claws and a skull-crushing jaw strength, would he have been less indecisive about killing (or even eating) his traitorous uncle? According to The Lion King: apparently not.
Disney’s winning formula:
• Substitute the poison with a stampede of wildebeest.
• Switch the ghost with a talkative cumulous cloud.
• Finally provide the play’s royal family with some extra fur, a tail and some pleasant baritones.
Fun Fact: A wildlife expert brought a lion, a baboon and some vultures to the film studio so the animators could study certain behaviours. For example, in the movie, Rafiki carries a staff, so the animators had the real baboon carry a long stick around so they could sketch him in different poses.
Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew)
Kiss Me Kate tells the story of a theatre troupe’s haphazard attempt to stage a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. As life begins to imitate art the ensemble unravels into a farcical explosion of metathetrical romance and murderous mobsters.
Near the dénouement the theatrical thugs who endanger the production find themselves trapped onstage. With nowhere to run they are forced to improvise a tribute to Shakespeare in which they explain that understanding The Bard is the key to romance, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".
Fun Fact: The 1953 screenplay adaptation of the musical was originally filmed in 3D, which is why the actors often throw things (including themselves) at the audience.
It seems YMT’s Macbeth is in fine company! If you think The Bard could use a dose of dance or a medicinal jab of music then come join us at The Lyric Theatre Belfast this July!
Wednesday 23 July 2014 - 7:30pm to Tuesday 26 August 2014 - 7:30pm
BONUS: Not a musical but 10 Things I Hate About You, the high school bound adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, is home to a short light-footed performance definitely worth sharing
In its 10th year Youth Music Theatre UK has prepared an explosive summer season of groundbreaking international work in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Strap in as we give you the breakdown of the shows, merchandise and competitions you can expect to see appearing over the next few weeks!
Follow our new Instagram channel to get sneak peek into the rehearsals of our upcoming shows, a unique insight into the creative workings of YMT and the inevitable office selfies.
Follow us here! http://instagram.com/ymtuk
Over the next few weeks we’ll be running regular competitions where YMT members will have the chance to win exclusive merchandise, goodie bags and theatre tickets.
We will also be launching our ‘7 Second Musical’ challenge! Where we’ll be seeking out the smartest, funniest or maddest way to tell the story of a popular musical in 7 seconds. More information to follow soon!
We’ve got a brand new range of YMT hoodies, T-shirts, badges and much more for you to get your hands on!
Summer Season 2014
23 Jul 2014 to 26 Jul 2014, Belfast: Lyric Theatre
This July the thumping sound of Drum ‘n’ Bass cascades down the corridors of Dunsinane. An ominous beat reverberates through the dank fog of YMT's dystopian reimagining of Shakespeare's perennial horror story Macbeth.
Utilising Garth McConaghie’s fierce electric score alongside Stuart Harvey accomplished direction, the young cast bring a new twisted take on the things that could conceivably go bump in the night.
31 Jul 2014 to 01 Aug 2014, Aberdeen: The Lemon Tree
Harvest Fire ignites an explosive fusion between the spectacular energy of America's Burning Man Festival and Scotland's own harvest celebrations. Within this vibrant collision of traditions the boundaries between death and re-birth are tested with visual relish.
Harvest Fire is a crackling new work created by director Lewis Barfoot as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
15 Aug 2014 to 16 Aug 2014, Plymouth: Barbican Theatre
The Dance Connection is a vibrant devised performance, combining breathtaking choreography, mesmerising movement and immersive vocal soundscapes. The score steps light-footedly between captivating classics to pace-pumping pop, with the invigorating infusions of Gaelic song and jazz.
All these elements are intertwined to create an intricate and spectacular tapestry of movement and sound not to be missed.
15 Aug 2014 to 16 Aug 2014, Belfast: The MAC
The first of YMT's new Triptych Programme, commissioning new work from young female composers, Triptych (2014) gives young performers from YMT auditions the chance to work with some of the most exciting and innovative emerging composers in the UK and from abroad.
The programme brings together three emergent female composers from around the world. The template for this groundbreaking new work comes from the poems of one Northern Island's foremost female writers, Sinéad Morrissey.
16 Aug 2014 to 17 Aug 2014, Halifax: Square Chapel
This is a chance for young women to experiment with cutting-edge musical theatre, devise new work and explore what it means to reach womanhood in the 21st century.
23 Aug 2014 to 24 Aug 2014, Berkshire: South Hill Park Arts Centre
Launching a major international collaboration, YMT will be developing the stage version of the international bestselling book Ali & Nino. The story remains a testament to the strength of love in a war-torn world.
The performance will be a multilingual maelstrom of Georgian polyphonic singing and Persian mugham. Performed by a talented international cast; this promises to be one of YMT’s most ambitious projects to date.
28 Aug 2014 to 31 Aug 2014, Kingston: Rose Theatre
A new, dangerously addictive music has entered Discworld! Performer Imp Y Celyn (literally translated as ‘bud of the holly’) finds himself the unwitting poster boy for this intoxicating trend. We follow Imp and his eclectic ensemble through their glamorous yet short lived musical career, as they attempt to harness the new ‘Music With Rocks In’.
Directed by Luke Sheppard, (Associate Director RSC's Matilda), adapted by stand-up comedian Andrew Doyle with original music from WhatsOnStage Award-nominee Craig Adams (LIFT, Thérèse Raquin), and choreographed by Off West End Award-winner Cressida Carré (Titanic).
29 Aug 2014 to 30 Aug 2014, Plymouth: Barbican Theatre
In Geraldine McCaughrean’s award-winning tale a frighteningly zealous and single-minded Noah, battles against the apocalyptic elements. Family conflicts, stowaways and rogue reptiles combine to craft a captivating storm-forged story bound to leave you gasping for air.
We hope to see you all there!