Read our interview with Sarah Stephenson

Monday 4th August 2014

How has the youth theatre evolved since you’ve been working for Nottingham Playhouse?

When I first started working at Nottingham Playhouse nine years ago, I was involved in founding what is now Nottingham Playhouse Youth Theatre. I was also a workshop leader supporting main stage productions. The youth theatre originally ran a number of sessions across Nottinghamshire, but after receiving feedback from many pupils saying they would prefer to get out of school and into the city we decided to move all sessions to Nottingham Playhouse. Since we did this the number of young people we work with has increased.

How did you become a Youth Theatre Director?

I went to Liverpool University and completed a degree in English and Drama then did my PGCE at Sheffield and became a teacher. I taught English for a while and then Drama. After four years of teaching I decided to go freelance and set up a new youth theatre group in Wollaton called Unlimited Theatre. I also worked for PSDI Team which saw me head out to primary and secondary schools to run alcohol and drugs awareness workshops. After that I worked for Creative Partnerships and then Arts Council England as the Education and Learning Officer.

What have been the highlights of your career at Nottingham Playhouse?

I really enjoyed directing The Trial by Franz Kafka. The set design by Nathan Rose worked really well and the trademark physical theatre and use of an ensemble, which makes youth theatre look so powerful, fused together so well on this production. There were also some really humorous moments in the play, so we had a lot of laughs in rehearsals piecing together these scenes. I was delighted to be voted ‘Best Director’ in that year’s Backstage Pass awards.

My favourite studio production was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. We purposely cast a professional actor in the production to help give the Young Company the opportunity to learn from him. It worked well and proved really inspiring to other cast members.

Why did you decide to direct Equus for this year’s Advanced Youth Theatre show?

Quite simply – it’s just a brilliant script which explores the theme of nature versus nurture; a debate which I find fascinating. The protagonist in the play, Alan, performs some truly awful acts and the story makes you think about whether he was always destined to do them or if it was Alan’s upbringing that led him to form his own reality where those awful acts were legitimised in his mind.

I’m going to stage it with audience on three sides and set it up like a court trial, which will make the audience feel like a jury. It will be a very different kind of staging to what has been done before and I’m really excited to see how it will work.

Equus will be at Nottingham Playhouse 11-16 August

See the trailer