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Wolverhampton Theatres Combine to Produce Work with Local Young Actors

Grand Arena Youth Theatre 2In September 2016, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and the Arena Theatre combined creative forces to launch a Youth Theatre, which rehearses weekly in the Arena’s main auditorium.

Memberships for the Grand Arena Youth Theatre sold out within minutes in September 2016, since then the young performers aged 9 – 18 worked towards their first show Check-In! which debuted at the Arena Theatre, Wulfruna Street on Saturday 4 February.

The performance comes just as Wolverhampton Grand Theatre announced that it will become a producing-house, beginning with a professional production of Brassed Off which will be produced, rehearsed and performed in the city in August.

The Grand Arena Youth Theatre production of Check-In! was a performance piece that reflected a term’s worth of exploration into playfulness, improvisation, physical theatre and devising. It explored social media and migration and examines what happens when these two worlds, the online and physical, collide.

Performers work to improve their acting skills, and sessions focus on learning new techniques with professional actors Fran Richards and Alex Turner.

Fran Richards is the Senior Practitioner at Grand Arena Youth Theatre and also oversees Education and Outreach at the Arena Theatre. After receiving a first class honours degree at the University of Wolverhampton and the Jasmin Vardimon Award for Excellence in Physical Theatre whilst training, she began her career as a freelance Actor. Working with companies including Birmingham REP, Shakespeare’s School Festival, Gazebo Theatre and Newave Arts.

Fran still flexes her acting and directing muscles regularly when taking part in 14/48: The Worlds Quickest Theatre Festival as well as co-ordinating Artsfest; a multidisciplinary festival that celebrates the Arts within the Black Country.

Alex Turner graduated with a distinction from Circomedia, the UK's leading institution for Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre, in 2013.  Since then Alex has been performing globally, headlining multiple international comedy and performance festivals, primarily as a stage performer but also holds a range of on screen credits.  Specialising in improvisation and devising, he makes his own shows to tour and works as a director and producer for other companies throughout the UK and Europe.

The work that the students do is devised and sees them create work based on a series of creative sessions, beginning with improvisation. Alex Turner said; “As facilitators, it has been our job to guide them through workshops, discussions and play to create work suitable for a theatre audience. Having delivered sessions on a variety of styles including Improvisation, Ensemble, Staging, Physical Theatre and even Japanese Butoh, we then allowed the students to play and explore these areas around their themes. The main themes in the performance came from the students. The maturity and professionalism of all the students in the creation of this work has astonished us. They have tackled heavy topics head on and were not afraid to voice their opinions about both the themes and the show, the perfect attitude to have when creating work through collaborative devising.

James Collins, Creative Learning Co-Ordinator at the Grand Theatre said; “With plenty of fantastic musical theatre opportunities available to young people in the city, it’s great that Grand Arena Youth Theatre gives our members the opportunity to devise their own dramatic piece of work by using various drama techniques to explore issues that are important to them. Watching the young performers during the rehearsal process has been an absolute pleasure, particularly when you can see them gradually take ownership of their work and become immensely proud of what they have created.”

For more information please contact the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on 01902 429212 or visit

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