From 2010 to 2012 a group of teenagers considered “at risk” took part in a new RSC initiative called the Young Company - a partnership project with Warwickshire Early Intervention Service, Stratford College and Warwickshire's Secondary head-teachers.
The project aim was to explore what impact the RSC could have on the confidence and attainment of this small, local group.
In Year 1 participants took part in weekly sessions which included developing their theatre skills, taking them to the theatre and sessions with different departments at the RSC. Highlights included:
• Working with RSC artists including Michael Boyd & Cicely Berry
• Performing their own production of Hamlet alongside RSC actors
• Watching RSC productions, including the Roundhouse London season
• Representing the RSC at an event at the House of Lords
• Completing a Bronze Arts Award Shakespeare Challenge - for many their first formal qualification.
In Year 2 participants began exploring and collaborating with the RSC in a wider sense which involved them:
• Producing a 'Building Takeover' in May 2012 as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, featuring young artists from across the UK
• Visiting and collaborating with Intermission Youth Theatre, London, and the egg young people's theatre, Theatre Royal Bath
• Performing a production of Henry V in the Swan in July 2012 directed by RSC Associate Artist Simon Trinder
• Completing a Silver Arts Award - equivalent to an A-C grade GCSE
The project formally ended in September 2012 but participants continue to meet termly at the RSC to take part in workshops and watch productions. Of the original members nine completed the two years, with seven members continuing to study in college or sixth form. In March 2013 members of the group met with new Artistic Director Gregory Doran to reflect on the impact the RSC and Shakespeare can have on young people's lives.
'Undoubtedly one of the most powerful and successful theatre outreach programmes that any of these schools have been involved in: I cannot praise highly enough the project which took disengaged and disadvantaged young people and made a positive and significant impact on their lives.' David Williams, Headteacher, Stratford High School, 2011
'They brought to the life of the RSC a wit, an anarchy and an imaginative energy that we have been the richer for.' Michael Boyd, Former RSC Artistic Director
Photo by Rob Freeman shows RSC actor Dharmesh Patel with Matt from the Young Company in their production of Hamlet in 2011.
The RSC Young Company was generously supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.