City Varieties Youth Theatre ‘Pick & Mix’ Process and Play

One of my hats is as Artistic Director of the City Varieties Youth Theatre in Leeds. And we’re close to putting on a show at the Howard Assembly Rooms next month which fulfils the tricky task of giving each and every one of the young performers a decent ‘bite of the cherry’.


The CVYT is made up of almost 80 young people aged 8-21 years old. Every single one of our young people are there for reasons that are personal to them – and every single one of them deserves as much of my time as I can possibly give and as much time as possible to show the world what they are capable of, oh and and as much time as there is available to grow and develop as artists and people in this company that I am nurturing, alongside the team: Associate Director: Dick ‘finger in every pie’ Bonham, Music Man for this show and MD for the Summer: Rich ‘Hope and Social’ Huxley and trainee choreographer and YT member Emma ‘why would I need to sleep?’ Stead.


We also have the best support and admin team the world has to offer and I’m not even lying… lead by the audacious Rachel ‘just tell me and I’ll make sure it’s done and then some’ Lythe.

So, as I say, there are almost 80 young people in the CVYT. And I wanted to put on a show this December that was actually about them having a chance to do something they’d like to do, on the proviso that I thought it was a) good for them and b) good enough one way or another. Some of them struggle with the acts they are in and they’re there because it’s a challenge, and they’re getting there. Some of them play to their strengths – my job is to make sure they can do both. I can’t always do as much as I want for then – in fact I rarely feel I do – there’s 80 of them you know… but at least it’s a start.


So the Pick & Mix started to take a form that won’t really reveal itself (least of all to me) until the night of the 9th and 10th December… where our young artists sing, dance, perform extracts from a range of plays, contemporary and classic, play instruments, devise, improvise, magicalise (?) and wing it…


It’s not what you’d call a classic variety show I’m afraid – actually, I’m not afraid, I’m chuffed to be able to open our doors and give you a bit of a window into some of what we do, and largely a lot of what we DON”T do enough (because we can’t, because we have to put on shows that put bums on seats because we don’t get any funding so we have to be commercial enough to make enough money to keep the youth theatre going and… so on) – and that’s to take the pressure off these young people, to spend time on skills and socialising, on laughter and a lot of ‘OH MY GOD! I didn’t know you could do THAT!’ … and after last night’s rehearsal where we finally managed to share a few of the acts, there was a bit of a lump in our throats, because there were acts that made the cast shut up for a few minutes, acts that made us all mouth ‘WHAAAAAT?’ and a lot of the sort of plain old brilliance that happens when you support your cast and then trust them to get on with it (and they know you trust them so they rise to it)… I cried a bit, I can’t lie. I know… but hearing Skinny Love as a gentle duet sang and self accompanied to perfection because they’d been ‘working on it a bit here and there’… you know.


So I can’t tell you exactly what to expect – it’s not cheesy, it’s not jazz hands, well, one bit is… it’s not lots of things that variety show suggests – (which is why I called it Pick & Mix), but it IS bloody brilliant and YOU can come because, here’s the thing, it’s open to the public… imagine.


And the reason I think you should come if you think you’d like to, is for the sheer joy of seeing these young artists of tomorrow let loose, doing stuff that will move you and will make you feel all hopeful about the next generation. I am so proud of each and every one of them because the TROUBLE WITH YOUTH THEATRE is that we are all battling against the ‘instant fame’ culture and parental expectations and the public’s perception of ‘drama’ and ‘theatre’ as somehow insignificant and extra to young people’s development rather than integral to their growth, given the chance. (I’m going to write separately about this – this was supposed to be a short post with a few rehearsal shots)… but the CVYT have made this happen despite all sorts of adversity I’m not going into here, but they care about the work, themselves, each other and the CVYT as a whole and the Howard Assembly Room stage will sing to this tune for 2 nights.


Here’s some snaps I took on my phone of bits of rehearsals on Sat (the youngest) and last night… and after that there is a link to where you can buy a ticket.

Both nights are different. Monday is our Sat groups (8-10 and 11-15) and Tues is our Tues night groups (11-15 and 16+)… Although both nights will be featuring Mr Bobak Walker’s Hip Hop Troupe (he’s been working with yp from across the 4 groups).

I hope you can come and I hope you enjoy it.



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