Exeter’s theatre companies: ‘The Young Pretenders Theatre Company (TYP)’ in interview
I have written a piece in Exeter Life this month about Exeter’s homegrown theatre talent. This is the last in a series of three interviews in full with local theatre companies.
The Young Pretenders Theatre Company (TYP) is an Exeter-based grass roots organisation set up to “inspire young people aged 11-18 to pursue artistic futures through the creation of vibrant arts opportunities in the South West”. I spoke to their Artistic Director, Lucy Hirst.
Tell me a little about the company and how it works:
First and foremost, the organisation is a dedicated young persons’ theatre company, striving to raise the ambitions of its young actors and the expectations of its audiences through the facilitation of professional training and ambitious productions. The company favours new writing or devised work and has recently branched out into the wider artistic spectrum by establishing and hosting a multi-disciplinary youth arts festival alongside a brand new platform for young writers in central Exeter.
How did it all begin and long has it been running for?
TYP began as a part-time venture in 2014 with Artistic Director Lucy Hirst, an Exeter University drama graduate who saw a lack of opportunity for young people in the city and wanted to do something to resolve it. Little did she know, the company would soon be dealing with a much greater nationwide issue that dealt with trying to redefine youth theatre as a professional form in it’s own right. In 2017, Lucy and newly appointed Executive Director, Katherine Stevens, went full time (and perhaps slightly mad) with the launch of two brand new productions, both of which toured, a new scheme for Exeter-based writers, and the launch of Exeter’s first dedicated youth arts festival, TYPify. What started as a two-hour a week position, has now blossomed into an award-winning company.
Which shows have you performed?
Alongside performing a number of original productions locally at site-specific locations around Exeter (such as the large oak tree in Poltimore House’s grounds), TYP were fortunate enough to perform on the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage in July 2016 as one of just 11 finalist companies out of 500 participating youth theatres across the UK with their 4-star production of ‘I’m Spilling My Heart Out Here.’ Following their 2016 success, this year TYP commissioned the production of an original play, Not Our Turn by Katherine Stevens. The play’s purpose was to listen to and alleviate a number of their young company’s frustrations following their voicelessness after the 2016 EU referendum. The 4-star production was performed at the XCentre in May before touring to the Clapham Omnibus Theatre in July. It will finish its run on the 2nd September at the Northcott Theatre. Running parallel to this, the second half of TYP’s company were working hard on a devised production inspired by EM Forster’s the Machine Stops called The Pseudo Project. Again, the production received 4-stars following it’s run at Radiant Gallery in Plymouth and later toured as headliners to Exeter’s first dedicated youth arts festival, TYPify.
What makes you stand out from the other theatre companies in Exeter?
What a great question! We’re one of, if not the only, purely acting-centred youth organisations in Exeter. We don’t work with musical theatre in any capacity. Our work is also extremely contemporary, we’re interested in dealing with issues that are of present concern in a format that seeks to challenge our young members on an artistic and personal level – we see no reason why young people shouldn’t be put through the same professional process as adult actors and we’ve seen incredible results through doing so. Undeniably, one of our main strengths is our young team and the atmosphere they create at TYP – there’s a lot of love in the room! Numbers are always restricted to make sure every member gets the 1-1 they deserve and we strike a fine balance between professionalism and fun. Everyone that works at TYP has a genuine interest and belief in the young people we support as well as a real dedicated to developing their own professional craft. There is a mutual respect that creates a very positive working environment.
And what are your plans for the future?
Lucy and Katherine will then be reviewing what was achieved this year and looking to begin a new programme of work in September time when we’ll be recruiting new members and working on some performer training courses between September – December. Stay tuned, if we’re half as bonkers as this year there will be lots to get involved with!
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Exeter Life to read the full article.