INTERVIEW: Director of Influence, Nicky - "Youth Theatre is a big family and gives people a sense of belonging"

Director of Influence, Nicky Bellenger sat down for an interview last week with our work experience students to discuss how rehearsals are going and why you should grab a ticket.

Influence is at Derby Theatre Friday 26 July 2019 - Saturday 27 July 2019. 

Director of Influence, Nicky

What is Influence about?

It’s an action packed adventure story that I think, at it’s very heart, is about young people working together to acknowledge and accept that their differences are what make them stronger in the face of an unexpected challenge: trying to rescue a kidnapped teenager from a dangerous, underground data-collecting organisation.

How do you think rehearsals are going?

We’ve been busy! The play is fast, and moves to so many different locations as we chase after the evil Dr Ford and his corrupt organisation Datamine, which our chorus have become experts of creatively navigating. We’ve worked with our brilliant designer George Leigh to create a comic book world that all of the action makes sense within, but that also gives us loads to play with in the rehearsal room. Every rehearsal throws up a new challenge, but we’re working collaboratively in the room and having loads of fun along the way.

Why should people come and see Influence, and why would they enjoy it?

It’s funny! As serious as the content of the play sounds, Andy’s written a comedy, and our cast have translated his sense of humour perfectly into something that they’ve taken real ownership of. If you don’t laugh at least once then we’ll get Datamine to refund your ticket for you…

Plus there’s more than just Influence to see: our other 14-18’s Youth Theatre group have devised a brilliant Curtain Raiser inspired by the play that’ll give you plenty to talk about after the shows.

Who’s your favourite character in Influence and why?

That’s a mean question; that’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. Okay, okay, if I must, I’ll choose Ashley: big up the underdog. No wait…Tim, there’s more than meets the eye. No scrap that: the chorus - the story can’t be told without them and they’re hilarious. Ooor… 

Why is Influence different from other Youth Theatre Productions?

It’s an adventure story, and some of it is absolutely ridiculous! (a group of teenagers falling through the middle aisle of Lidl?!). The reason we commissioned Andy to write our older Youth Theatre’s piece this year was because he spoke so passionately about writing a play that was fun and playful, and that would allow our performers to escape. Playfulness and imagination are so integral in the work we make with our younger groups, but the encouragement to make things that are funny, imaginative, or otherworldly can have a tendency to disappear in the work we make with older Youth Theatre groups. It’s been a joy to rediscover some of that with our older performers again, whilst still holding onto the importance of why this play, why now and what is it that they want to say through it. That’s still important.

Influence is performed by Derby Theatre’s Youth Theatre. Why do you think Youth Theatre is important?

The performances you’ll see will be fantastic and of great quality, the skills that all of our young people learn along the way are really valuable and they’ll have a great time doing it, but it’s about so much more than that. Youth Theatre is like a big family and should give all young people a sense of belonging: a safe place to create friendships, explore identity, develop confidence and support mental wellbeing. Not everyone comes to Youth Theatre because they want to be a performer or work in theatre when they’re older. That’s important.

Influence is at Derby Theatre Friday 26 July 2019 - Saturday 27 July 2019. 

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