Creative Theatre Academy – Young Actors Putting The Pandemic Centre Stage
The show must go on…line
We’re all coming to terms with life under lockdown. How to entertain our kids and keep them safe, sane and entertained has been one of the biggest challenges. The Creative Theatre Academy acting troupe usually rehearses every Saturday morning at Exeter University’s Roborough studios. For now, they’re workshopping via Zoom and Edmodo. It’ll take more than COVID-19 to stop these young actors. The show must go on.
Cue Creative Theatre Academy (CTA)
To travel back in time pre-coronavirus…
Tom Veasey and Jonathan Hunt set up Creative Theatre Academy in 2018. Their mission – to help young people write and perform musicals on the West End. No small undertaking.
Both actors and coaches themselves, they were keen to combine theatre and education. Jonathan trained at the University of Exeter and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Tom cut his teeth at the Guildford School of Acting.
“We wanted to create a theatre school where young people could explore their imagination in a safe and supportive environment. A place to try out new ideas, without fear of judgement or failure, without being weighed down by the ball and chain of tests and curriculums.”
Fourteen-year-old Tom Winnings explains:
“What I love about CTA is the fact that we get to build our own story and our own show. It’s just us and our imagination.”
Creative Theatre Academy offers something for everyone, whatever their interests, talents or temperament. The young actors are introduced to a range of practical and performance skills.
It’s completely changed the way I see the theatre.
Year 5 pupil Nathan Masters says:
“I love all the skills. We’ve done masks, puppetry, haiku writing, stage design. One time we were asked to buy props with a budget of £20 for each scene. You begin to see how much goes into making a play happen. It’s completely changed the way I see the theatre.”
The collaborative element of theatre production is central to their endeavours. Jonathan says:
“Confidence and craft go hand in hand. Learning new skills gives them the confidence to create.”
The troupe has benefited hugely from workshops given by visiting professionals. Past practitioners have included West End actors and dancers, Danielle Cato (Cats) and Ellie Ann Lowe (currently in Les Misérables). Future workshops will include West End directors, composers and costume designers, as well as Ryan Land, vocalist for renowned acapella group Semitoned.
We want this piece to be a celebration of nature and a story of hope.
This year’s West End production tackles the climate crisis. Tom elaborates:
“Climate change is at the forefront of all our minds. But we want this piece to be a celebration of nature and a story of hope. It is a timely topic and vital for our young voices to speak out and sing about.”
Plans are afoot to release a song on iTunes about the subject, which they hope to send to schools around the country:
“Hopefully we can go viral with a piece that proves everybody’s voice can be heard and no one is too small to make a difference, to borrow the title of Greta Thunberg’s book.”
The energy of the young actors is the driving force of Creative Theatre Academy. Jonathan says:
“They are energetic, imaginative kids; it’s just a matter of unleashing them. They can be a little constrained in school; there’s the pressure to conform, to follow the curriculum. Here, they’re unconstrained by writing for a teacher or for an examination, or in order to tick boxes for assessment objectives. We’re there, mainly in the wings. The emphasis is on gentle guidance, a light touch. Nothing is dismissed. No idea is too strange or out there.”
Anna Brookes-Ferrari, 9, agrees:
“It feels freer than at school. Tom and Jon recognise that you have your own ideas, and let you run with them.”
Creativity, like enthusiasm, is infectious.
Ellis Haddrell, a third year drama student at Exeter University, ably assists with choreography and improvised pieces. She explains the importance of play in the process:
“Play is imperative. It enhances group cohesion: if the students are laughing together there is a common platform of trust. Play also allows us to experiment with ideas. Through improvisation games we might discover an interesting character or trait – or a line of text that becomes the hook of a new song.”
“These exercises also help develop transferable skills: teamwork, empathy, tenacity, trust, innovation, resilience – all admirable human values that the students can take with them through life, not just theatre. We’re constantly amazed by the sensitivity and the sheer ambition of their writing. That’s what The Girl with the Yellow Balloon was all about. It wasn’t our view of the world. It was theirs.”
The Girl with the Yellow Balloon, their first production, was performed two years in a row, 2018 and 2019, at top London venue The Other Palace Theatre. The children devised and wrote the show themselves, along with the songs, choreography, stage design and lighting.
Inspired by a heart-warming story written by a young girl with severe dyslexia, it explored the themes of problems at school, preoccupied parents, confidence issues, loneliness, and trying to find one’s place in the world. With references ranging from Greta Thunberg and Serena Williams to Billie Eilish and Donald Trump, the script could not have been more contemporary or relevant.
“Artistic expressions, outlets if you will, are more and more important in our increasingly stressful lives. Theatre gives young people a chance to explore a changing world in a safe place.”
Theatre is as much about self-exploration as self-expression.
Keen for your child to tread the boards?
Why not pop in and have a peek at rehearsals? Enjoy the spectacle.
“Newcomers are always welcome. It is never too late to join the process – last year we had people join throughout the year and they slotted in perfectly well right away. The positive atmosphere with our group of young people is infectious – newbies feel instantly welcome! There’s even a free taster session and no pressure to commit.”
CTA usually* rehearse every Saturday morning during term time, between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm at Exeter University’s Roborough studios.
To secure your child a free taster session and a place with the company, visit the website www.creativetheatreacademy.com
Or you can email Jonathan and Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, drop Tom a line on 07929844245.