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It’s Grand to be part of National Theatre’s Connections

Grand Theatre

Blackpool Grand Theatre’s Young Company came together for the first time in October 2015, the group is a member of the NT Connections 500 partnership. We asked what it was like to be part of this Young Company, and Helena Ascough who is studying for her BTEC Level 3 Performing Arts at Blackpool & Fylde College told us:

“My first experience of NT Connections was a small taster session ran by Jo Cassidy at Blackpool & Fylde College. Automatically, I knew that I wanted to take part in such a brilliant opportunity! Jo commented that those who would be selected from the workshops would perform as part of a professional Theatre Company.

This is a valuable experience for any young budding actresses and actors, as you get to work with people from the industry and also learn acting tips along the way.

After the taster session, I had to take part in a workshop audition where we had to use action and movement to explore a story. It was a lovely experience as I met new people who were also passionate about the theatre.

After all auditions were completed, I was very lucky to get a phone calling saying that I had been chosen!

The first sessions of the Young Company consisted of team building which is extremely important in the acting industry as you are reliant on other people. From stage design to lighting. The exercises bought everyone closer as we were able to learn more about each other.

A few sessions in, we were all excited to find out what play we were going to perform. Mel and Jo decided to choose ‘Blackout’ by Davey Anderson. We read the script together, inputting potential ideas for performance. What I love about our company is that everyone has a strong input and that all ideas are valid.

We also researched the themes of the play to gain a greater understanding of the plays context which gives us a better insight to our characters’ motives. Melanie also invites people from the industry to visit us. A few sessions ago Wingz Management came to audition us for a potential opportunity to be part of their Agency; due to the Young Company I am now going to be part of.

Now, we are working on our performance. We have had helpful sessions on characterisation, where we thought about how our characters would walk, talk and think. We are also fortunate to have a wonderful technical team that design scenes, choose lighting and create sound effects.

I feel like I have improved my acting skills greatly as I have had to take direction. Also, I have learnt that theatre is an organic process that can be taken anywhere, and most importantly I have met some lovely people that have inspired me to continue performing. Overall, I believe that our company is striving to create a amazing performances and an experience that will not be forgotten.”

You can see Helena and the rest of the Young Company performing Blackout (a hard-hitting play about getting bullied, fighting back, trying to make a name for yourself, turning vicious, doing something stupid, losing everything, then finding your way again) in The Studio Theatre, Grand Theatre at 7pm on Friday 19 and 2pm and 7pm on Saturday 20 February 2016.  Tickets cost £6 and are available online or via the Box Office on 01253 290 190.

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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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