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Witness new beginnings at Chrysalis Festival

Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre, Club

Organised by Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, the Chrysalis Festival is a platform for ambitious performance by young theatre-makers. It showcases emerging talent, sparks critical debate and challenges perceptions of youth theatre.

Running from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 November 2016 at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, we found out more about the festival from Youth Theatre Arts Scotland CEO Kenny McGlashan

Where did the idea for the Chrysalis festival come from and how did you get it up and running?

The idea for the festival first surfaced around five years ago, when we started to see more and more exceptional theatre made by young people working in collaboration with talented artists and directors. We were convinced that work of this quality deserved a wider audience and began developing plans for a new platform. 

We also knew from our research that local youth theatre activity was growing in scale, diversity and ambition across the country, in part due to our development activities.  With hundreds of local youth groups now increasing their ambitions, a need had emerged for a focussed event that would inspire young companies to test out new work together. Young theatre makers and their leaders told us that a festival like Chrysalis would challenge and inspire their practice onto the next level.

In 2015 Youth Theatre Arts Scotland produced the first Chrysalis festival in partnership with the Traverse Theatre. Securing the correct venue partner for the festival was one of the most important elements we had to get right. The Traverse is internationally recognised for their work supporting new writing as well as their leading Edinburgh Festival Fringe seasons helped to launch the careers of some of Scotland's best-known writers. Establishing a direct link between our network of groups and the Traverse’s professional venue we feel is a game-changer for youth arts in Scotland.


You’ve increased to three days from the original two at last years festival, this must be an indication of the positive response you received after the first festival. What have been added in 2016 to make the festival bigger?

Two new strands have been added to the festival for 2016. ‘Chrysalis Too’ runs throughout the festival offering a curated series of workshops and talks about the current trends and challenges within contemporary youth theatre practice. Then on Saturday afternoon, ‘Emergence’ is a new platform for emerging ideas and young theatre-makers where they will present short risk-taking new works-in-progress. The Emergence audience will be able to contribute their thoughts and ideas on how each piece could develop.

There are so many talented young creatives out there at the moment, so how do you pick who will feature in the festival? What is the selection process for the theatre groups?

We have a selection panel who discuss applications to Chrysalis and draw up a shortlist in February based on a set artistic criteria. Two members of the panel then view each shortlisted performance. After they have seen all the performances the panel meet again in June to select the final performances to be presented at the festival. 

To guide this process the panel consulted with youth theatre professionals and young people to establish the artistic criteria.  The criteria considered for each production now includes ‘direction’, ‘performance’, ‘technical elements’, ‘text’ and ‘ethics’ and the performances selected aim to be ‘emotionally engaging’, ‘ambitious’, ‘challenging’ and ‘polished’.

Applications for Chrysalis festival 2017 will open on 18 November 2016: www.ytas.org.uk/chrysalis

Tron Young Company, Sheep. credit: John Johnston

Are there any particular shows which you think are likely to stand out as the most discussed this year?

Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre from Malta are bringing ‘CLUB’ to the festival. Their performance focusses on a group of teenagers dealing with the aftermath of a tragic accident in the world of today’s cyber-teenager. The impact of the topic and the power of the company’s physical performance is sure to stand out.

In contrast to Teatru’s piece the Platform Young Company from Easterhouse have devised a new fictional play with writer Lewis Hetherington. ‘The Island’ is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a group of young people are struggling to find a safe home, to trust in each other and to understand the harsh world around them. Although ‘The Island’ is a science fiction character play the performances and topics are really powerful and will resonate with many contemporary topics.

The Island, credit: Jassy Earl

Chrysalis Too will look at current trends and challenges in contemporary youth theatre practice – can you give us an idea of some of the topics that will be discussed?

There is a chance to hear from Directors of the four main productions about their different approaches to creating powerful text and performance.  In particular how they used factual and fictional experiences from the company to guide the work. There are also sessions exploring how the productions in Traverse 2 studio venue are uniquely staged to bring the audience into the intense world of the play.  All sessions during the weekend offer the chance to hear about arts practice from across Scotland, the UK and Europe.  

Chrysalis Festival takes place Friday 18 – Sunday 20 November at Traverse Theatre. Three-show Festival Pass £23 / Full Festival Pass £40 (all 5 performances) can be booked via the Traverse Theatre website.

Photo credits: John Johnston, Jassy Earl.

Youth Theatre Arts Scotland receive Regular Funding from Creative Scotland.

This article was published on 16 Nov 2016