The Chrysalis festival at the Traverse Theatre is hosted by Youth Theatre Arts Scotland to provide a platform for ambitious performances by young theatre-makers. Included in the programs are youth theatre groups from across Europe.
We had a chat with director Denise Mulholland from Malta’s Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre who are bringing their performance of CLUB to the festival.
How important do you think a festival like Chrysalis is for youth theatre?
Festivals like Chrysalis are extremely important for youth theatres. They provide a platform which is not always available for young companies and they offer the opportunity for emerging artists to engage with like-minded peers, experience their creative processes and share ideas and establish contacts for the future. For a company like TMYT, coming from a small island, the opportunity to expand horizons beyond their local scene, which although thriving can be limiting at times, is very beneficial indeed. Not only does it help the group realise that there are many other young people equally passionate about theatre, it also exposes them to other cultures and methods.
What are the challenges faced in putting a youth theatre performance together?
The challenges in putting together a Youth Theatre performance are really not so different to the challenges faced when putting up any kind of performance. TMYT aspires to be a process-led company, as opposed to a results-led company, so we endeavour to apply the techniques covered in the weekly sessions to whatever piece we happen to be working on. This way the students get to experience both the theoretical and the practical. Other challenges to take into consideration would be the fact that the cast are all still students so they are all at varying stages of development both artistically and personally. Our performances are always devised and the devising process can be challenging with any age. We are extremely lucky to have a very dedicated and committed group who successfully juggle school, university, jobs and other performances/rehearsals and make sure that TMYT remains a priority.
CLUB has been performed previously at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Is there a difference between audiences in Scotland and Malta?
When we performed CLUB in Malta we performed for a young audience, in Glasgow the audience was older and more international… and primarily a theatre audience made up of other festival participants. But there did not seem to be much difference in the way the audiences received the piece. It does tackle universal themes of grief and guilt, although the inspiration for the piece was definitely influenced by Malta itself. The island is set in the middle of the Mediterranean and the sea is a major part of the Maltese psyche. For a few years there was a craze for cliff-jumping which led to a number of serious accidents and provided us with our stimulus. So most likely a Maltese audience would relate more to the activity of cliff-jumping, possibly more than a Scottish one! The piece contains some Maltese and obviously a Maltese audience is acquainted with bilingual scripts, possibly foreign audiences respond differently and for most of them, it is safe to say it will be their first experience of the Maltese language.
What do Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre enjoy about visiting Scotland?
Primarily, Scotland is home to the Edinburgh Fringe, which is a huge source of inspiration for a lot of the youths in TMYT. Therefore, performing a festival piece of their own in a prestigious theatre like the Traverse, brings them one step closer to realizing their dream of possibly performing at the Fringe one day. Furthermore, the principal tutor of the company originally comes from Glasgow, therefore there was an existing connection the country. There has always been a strong connection between Malta and Scotland, seeing as a lot of students have furthered their education there in a number of fields. So visiting Scotland is always an enjoyable experience, although the cold temperature always needs a little bit of getting used to!
TMYT will also be running a workshop with local youth theatre company, Mix ‘N’ Pick Theatre on Sat 19th November, 12:30pm.