RSC Next Generation: Young Bloods proves Shakespeare is timeless
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has curated a new live-streamed series called Tales for Winter 2020/21, offering a wide variety of performances in varying genres to once again bridge the gap between lockdown performances and the revival of theatre in person. One performance, Young Bloods, sees the members of the Next Generation ACT company and the RSC Youth Advisory Board become artistic directors as they direct and perform extracts from Shakespeare’s plays.
The Next Generation ACT Company is made up of 25 young people, aged between 13 and 18, and is part of the RSC Next Generation, the Company’s talent development programme. The initiative provides young people from backgrounds currently under-represented in the theatre industry the opportunity to gain experience in acting, directing or backstage roles, allowing them to explore whether a career in theatre is for them. Partnering with the company, the RSC Youth Advisory Board reports directly to the RSC’s Board and is made up of 32 young people from across England, aged between 9 and 21. The Company itself works with hundreds of thousands of young people every year through its education and outreach work, and the Youth Advisory Board ensures that their voices opinions and ideas contribute to the organisation’s vision and planning.
Their input is certainly evident in the group’s performance of Young Bloods, which, true to its name, puts creative power into the hands of the young actors. Directed by Tinuke Craig, the cherry-picked extracts showcase the timeless power of Shakespeare’s words and how they will resonate with generations to come. The actors accompany the extracts with voiceovers to convey the thoughts and experiences of young people today and how the words of Shakespeare respond directly, or, conversely, challenge the issues that young people face today.
The production covers a wide range of topics, among them racism and prejudice, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health and climate change, to name a few. Director Craig and company adopt a pared-back approach, without period costumes or props to deter from communicating the opinions and messages of the piece. The famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet is a notable extract, with both lead characters played by male actors; voiceover specifically highlights the treatment and representation of the LGBTQ+ community. The performance is also a nod to the historical gender structures in Shakespearean times, reflecting that female characters were often played by men before women were able to act in their own gender.
An interesting addition is an informal discussion, presented like conversation during a rehearsal, with the actors critiquing the extract either during or after it has finished. The content further highlights the key themes to show the differences between Shakespeare’s words and how they are interpreted by a young, modern audience. It ultimately draws more attention to the fact that generations are, and can be, worlds apart in relation to what they find valuable and important.
Young Bloods was live streamed as part of Tales for Winter 2020/21 on 16th January 2021. For further information about the series and to book visit here.