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Theatre Centre – fine work for young audiences

It’s time to sing the praises of Theatre Centre – the new writing company specialising in young audience work, based in Shoreditch Town Hall.

I’ve seen and admired many of their shows over the years but was reminded afresh of what a good job they do when I saw Twist by Chino Odimba at Soho Theatre last week. Five terrifically talented young actors unfold a horrifying 60 minute story about an orphaned boy from Aleppo who comes to be trafficked though crime gangs in London. It’s loosely based on Oliver Twist, hence the title.

Shows like this entertain in the widest sense of the word at the same time as making everyone in the audience think – and think hard. There will a lot of reflection and questioning as this play tours to schools. Theatre Centre has no theatre of its own because it wants to take work out to young people who mightn’t otherwise have access to it.

Brian Way founded the company in 1953 because he was detirmined to create theatre for young people which would have the same production values as theatre for adult audiences. He strove for parity of status between young audience work and adult work too –  quite a revolutionary concept 64 years ago.

Today the Theatre Centre, led by Natalie Wilson (also the director of Twist) works extensively in schools across the curriculum, provides CPD for teachers and employs a rich diversity of young actors.

It also champions the work of playwrights. Skylines is a newish project working in the first instance with 50 writers and five regional partners. There are online resources and support to develop stageable work.

Well done, Theatre Centre. I really admire what you do and have achieved.

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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