National Youth Theatre

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National Youth Theatre
Founded1956; 65 years ago (1956)
FounderMichael Croft
Kenneth Spring
TypeRegistered charity
Company limited by guarantee
Registration no.306075
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key people
Paul Roseby
(CEO, Artistic Director)

The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain is a registered charity in London. It is committed to the development of young people through the medium of creative arts, and aims to use theatre to aid in this objective.[1] It was founded in 1956 as the world's first youth theatre[2] and has built a reputation for producing actors such as Daniel Craig, Daniel Day-Lewis, Timothy Dalton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, Ian McShane, Shaun Evans, Helen Mirren, Rosamund Pike and David Suchet.[3]

Every year, the National Youth Theatre holds acting auditions and technical theatre interviews around the United Kingdom; on average, it receives over 5,000 applicants. Currently, around 500 places are offered on summer intake acting and technical courses (in costume, lighting and sound, scenery and prop making, and stage management), which offer participants membership of the National Youth Theatre upon completion.[4] Members are then eligible to audition for the company's productions, which are staged in London's West End, around the UK, and internationally.[5]

Members staged the Olympic and Paralympic Team Welcome Ceremonies at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[6] In 2013, the National Youth Theatre raised their age limit to 25 and introduced a new six-week summer course called Epic Stages to cater for performance and production talent in their new upper age group of 18–25.[7] In summer 2014, members staged the Village Ceremonies at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.[8]


The National Youth Theatre in Holloway

The National Youth Theatre was founded in 1956 by Michael Croft, aided by Kenneth Spring.[9] As Head of the English Department, Croft had been responsible for producing a number of school plays at Alleyn's Boys' School. Following his departure, he was approached by a number of pupils from the school to continue working together on productions during school holidays. Their first production of Henry V created something of a stir; at the time, it was unusual for young actors to be performing Shakespeare, and this innovative venture attracted the attention of a curious public. The first audiences included actors Richard Burton and Sir Ralph Richardson, with Richardson agreeing to become the first President of what Croft called The Youth Theatre. The organisation evolved rapidly throughout the United Kingdom, involving young people on a national basis.

Croft died in 1986 and was succeeded by Edward Wilson as Director. Building on Croft's vision, Wilson took the company forward into new territory, increasing its range of activities and reinforcing its approach to technical production values. Wilson also recognised the opportunity to extend the organisation to more disadvantaged young people, and started the first Outreach department in 1989, working initially with young offenders and gradually widening the opportunities to other socially excluded groups. Wilson also secured the organisation's current headquarters in north London, which now houses all of its production facilities, including rehearsal rooms, scenery and costume workshops, sound studios, photographic dark rooms, and administration offices.

Wilson left the company in 2004. Sid Higgins (Executive Director), John Hoggarth (Artistic Director), and Paul Roseby (Artistic Director) took over. Since then, they have built on the legacy inherited from Croft and Wilson, and the organisation has continued to expand its opportunities to young people from a more diverse background through a wider range of theatrical projects and collaborations. Hoggarth stepped down in 2007 and Roseby continues as the organisation's Artistic Director.[10] In 2010, the National Youth Theatre moved administrative offices from Holloway Road to the Woolyard on Bermondsey Street; since 2016, it has been based on Bayham Street in Camden Town. In January 2012, Roseby became CEO while retaining his position as Artistic Director.

In 2012 the company suffered major issues with its finances and was bailed out with £680,000 from Arts Council England.[11]

Traditionally, the National Youth Theatre has done most of its work with members in the summer months, but this is changing more and more. Creative events and performances take place throughout the year, courses take place in school holidays and throughout term time, and the company continues to expand its work with young people from all areas of the community.[12][13][14] In summer 2012, the National Youth Theatre created and performed the Welcome Ceremonies for the London Olympics and Paralympics teams, with 200 members welcoming 20,000 athletes to Athletes' Village with 200 performances.[6]

Following a pilot in 2012, the National Youth Theatre's first official REP Company was formed in April 2013. Inspired by the traditional repertory theatre model, the REP Company course offers free, practical, industry-based talent development in drama and performance over nine months to 16 NYT members.[15][16][17] The National Youth Theatre also currently runs Playing Up, an OCN Level 3 accredited 10 month drama training programme, offering young people aged 19 to 24 who are not in education, employment, or training the opportunity to gain an access to higher education diploma in Theatre Arts, which is equivalent to two A Levels.[18]

In 2016, the National Youth Theatre celebrated its 60th anniversary. The celebrations culminated in a 60th Anniversary Gala performance, The Story of Our Youth, featuring alumni including Matt Smith, Gina McKee, Daisy Lewis, Jessica Hynes, and Hugh Bonneville.[19]

Barbara Broccoli succeeded Lord Waheed Alli and became the NYT's first female President in 2017.[20] The National Youth Theatre's Royal Patron is the Earl of Wessex.[21] 2017 marked 50 years since the staging of the National Youth Theatre's first ever commission, Zigger Zagger by Peter Terson, and to mark the occasion an anniversary production was staged at Wilton's Music Hall.[22]

NYT's first ever East End season was launched in Hackney Wick in 2017, which saw the NYT on "exuberantly good form".[23] Autumn 2017 saw the fifth anniversary of the NYT REP West End season at the Ambassadors Theatre, featuring performances Jekyll and Hyde, Othello, and Mrs Dalloway.[24] 2018 saw the NYT REP Season move away from the Ambassadors Theatre, to the Soho Theatre, the Garrick Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith, with performances of Consensual, Victoria's Knickers, and a female-led Macbeth abridged by Moira Buffini, as well as a production of To Kill a Mockingbird.


Past productions[edit]

For a full list of past productions, see National Youth Theatre Past Productions.


  1. ^ National Youth Theatre website.
  2. ^ "Time to apply to National Youth Theatre". 3 December 2009. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014.
  3. ^ Whitney, Hilary (17 July 2006). "It's a stage they've all been through". London: Daily Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Matt Lucas urges future stars to join youth theatre that inspired him". Evening Standard. 23 December 2009.
  5. ^ Allfree, Claire (11 August 2008). "Bridging different worlds for National Youth Theatre". Metro.
  6. ^ a b "'Two weeks that could change your lives': Team GB athletes given carnival welcome to the Olympic Village". Daily Mirror. 24 July 2012.
  7. ^[bare URL]
  8. ^[bare URL]
  9. ^ [1] Archived 26 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ drawn from
  11. ^ "Troubled arts venues get £14m Arts Council bail-out". BBC News. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  12. ^ "2009 Season: First Timers". Archived from the original on 31 March 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  13. ^ "When your bum looks big in this.. – Theatre". Bexley Times. 9 September 2009. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  14. ^ Maddy Costa (21 August 2009). "Eye/Balls | Theatre review | Stage". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  15. ^ Gardner, Lyn (3 October 2013). "Tory Boyz – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  16. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (29 September 2016). "The NYT's Pigeon English ripples with physical activity and streetwise authenticity". The Telegraph.
  17. ^ Mountford, Fiona (12 October 2015). "Consensual, theatre review: A lesson in sassy subversion". Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  18. ^ BWW News Desk. "National Youth Theatre's Playing Up Course to Perform Two World Premieres, July 10". Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  19. ^ Dex, Robert (5 September 2016). "Daisy Lewis and Matt Smith back on National Youth Theatre stage to celebrate 60th birthday". Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  20. ^ Longman, Will (4 April 2017). "National Youth Theatre announces 2017 season". London. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  21. ^ rose.slavin (7 June 2017). "The Earl of Wessex visits the National Youth Theatre". The Royal Family. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Zigger Zagger! Oi! Oi! Oi! How football's first musical kicked off | Features | The Stage". The Stage. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  23. ^ "The Host, theatre review: National Youth Theatre on fine form again". Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  24. ^ "National Youth Theatre announces 2017 season which includes Frantic Assembly partnership". The Stage. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.

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