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Performing on the National Theatre stage is the ultimate ambition for any actor, but it’s a dream that’s about to come true for performing arts students at Stockton Riverside College.

The team has been selected from more than 250 theatre groups nationwide to be one of just ten to perform at the National Theatre’s Connections Festival in London.

With their performance now on the lineup at the Dorfman Theatre this summer, Stockton Riverside College’s acting for stage and screen course leader, Kelly Fairhurst, said: “It doesn’t get more prestigious than this. This is as big as it gets and so, for our students, well, it means a lot.”

Showcasing future talent, each year the National Theatre commissions professional playwrights to create ten new scripts for UK youth theatre groups to perform. Of all the theatre groups that take part, just one production of each play is ultimately selected to be performed at the national festival.

“The aim is to bring together some of the most exciting writers with future actors and theatre-makers,” said Kelly. “It is very much about connecting people. For our students the whole process offers the chance to perform something brand new, work with industry mentors and opportunities to perform on the professional stage.”

Stockton Riverside College’s up and coming young actors worked on their take of Shout by Alexis Zegerman, a play that resonated with the group due to its underlying messages around neurodivergence.

Kelly said: “Shout is a funny, moving play about anxiety, celebrating differences, and finding your voice.

“In our group we have students who are neurodivergent, so this opened up discussion and the chance to learn from each other, and all of this fed into the performance.”

First performing at the college and then taking the play to the York Theatre Royal, as part of the Connections partner-theatre showcase, offered students an insight into life on a professional stage.

When that all-important call came to say they had been selected for London, Kelly admitted she cried, as did the students when they heard.

She said: “I am just over the moon for them, they have worked so hard, and the effort and dedication have paid off.

“This is such an incredible experience and the learning opportunities from it, for all of us, will be immense.

“Since finding out we have been selected it has been like a whirlwind.  We aren’t being treated like a youth group, but like a member of the National Theatre team.”

Acting student Adam, 17, from Thornaby, said: “When I found out we had been selected to perform in London I was speechless. This will be a huge step in my career. Not only will it stand out on my CV, it will also give me a once in a lifetime experience.”

Elliott, 18, also of Thornaby, said: “It is an amazing and life changing experience to perform on a National Theatre stage, it is many actors’ top dream.  I am scared to perform on such a prestigious stage but at the same time excited.”

Playing the lead role, Lola, 17, from Billingham, added: “This whole experience has helped me to gain confidence as an actor and in general, especially with it being my first lead role.  I have enjoyed the whole process from the very first script read through to our performance in York. We are all so excited to perform at the Dorfman Theatre.”

With a bumper cast of 42 members, and two further students helping cover the tech behind the scenes, Stockton Riverside College’s acting for stage and screen students will perform Shout as part of the at the National Theatre’s Connections Festival at the Dorfman Theatre, London, on June 26. Tickets are available from Thursday May 23 from the National Theatre website.

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