Theatre group tackling youth misconceptions at Welwyn Garden City festival

WGC Drama Festival

WGC Drama Festival - Credit: Archant

THE 79th Welwyn Drama Festival opens at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City on Monday. Former Welwyn Hatfield Times news editor Chris Lennon reports on the Next Generation Youth Theatre, who will open the week-long festival of one act plays.

Next Generation Youth Theatre will be presenting RIP Ned at the Welwyn Drama Festival 2013

Next Generation Youth Theatre will be presenting RIP Ned at the Welwyn Drama Festival 2013 - Credit: Archant

WHEN you think of young people and how they are portrayed in the media, what words spring to mind? Yobs? Louts? Hoodies?

Research over the past few years has shown these are among the most commonly used words in negative stories.

But a theatre group is out to prove that these are common misconceptions about the youth of today.

And their self-penned play which tackles the issue, RIP Ned, will be opening the 79th Welwyn Drama Festival.

The piece is being performed by Next Generation Youth Theatre, a company formed in Luton in February last year.

The group was invited to open the event after being declared the senior winners of the WGC Youth Drama Festival in March.

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Eleven of the 24 company members attend Luton Sixth Form College, and the Welwyn Hatfield Times caught up with three students – Lauren Williams, Luke Bigg and Shaquille Brathwaite-Blaggrove – to talk about the play and the meanings behind it.

Lauren says: “RIP Ned is about how people see the youth of today in a bad light.”

“Especially the media,” Shaquille chips in. “They don’t help a lot.

“Nowadays you won’t see kids doing something positive in the papers, it’s more about them doing negative stuff.

“RIP Ned is combating that.”

And Luke adds: “Ned stands for ‘non-educated delinquent’, so we’re basically saying goodbye to that.

“The whole piece is portraying the message that young people aren’t what the media say we are.

“It’s a very important social message.”

The “energetic and highly physical” piece, which combines news reports, poetry and the words and thoughts of the cast themselves, was devised over six weeks of workshops.

A hometown debut in the autumn sold out and, of course, there was the youth festival performance at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

But this week will be the fledgling company’s biggest show to date.

Luke says: “It will be a very different experience to a lot of what we’ve done before.

“Even with the youth festival the venue was smaller – we’ve heard the stage this time [at the Hawthorne Theatre] is a lot bigger.”

Lauren adds: “We’ve never done a performance that big, or to that many people.

“We’re quite excited, actually!”

* RIP Ned will be performed on Monday, June 3 at 7.30pm at the Hawthorne Theatre, WGC.

Tickets cost £10 adults, £8 concessions. Book online at www.hawthornetheatre.co.uk/wdf2013.html or call the box office on 01707 357117.

For more about the festival, which runs until Saturday, June 8, visit www.welwyndramafestival.org.uk