National Youth Theatre new shows at Ambassadors Theatre

In my last blog post written earlier this week was a listed selection of ‘hot picks’ for shows coming to the West End in October, and featured amongst them were one or two National Theatre productions, which included an adaption of Romeo and Juliet for young audiences. The National is known for consistently producing work of a high standard and a number of their shows have proven so successful that they’ve transferred into the West End and courted further success, with War Horse, One Man, Two Guvnors and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time serving as just a few such examples.

It is set to secure an even bigger presence in the West End this month as the Ambassadors Theatre invites in three productions from the National Youth Theatre as a follow-up to the success of NYT’s 2013 hits.  All three shows are new imaginings of pre-existing work, some using more creative licence than others, which will run at the West End venue throughout October and November (following previews).

The first to be presented there by the NYT is the radical new drama Selfie, written by Peter Morris and inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. This new Paul Roseby-directed production of his classic tale remains true to the central themes of deception, youth and vanity, but is brought into the 21st century and beyond as the story is retold in the setting of a conceptual future led by technology. In this version, it is a female Dorian who seeks eternal youth and beauty. Dorian, who is unaware of her beauty, becomes the object of infatuation for artist Basil Hallward and is subsequently invited into his hipster circle of artists and entrepreneurs and is soon plagued by self doubt and vanity – doing whatever it takes to be beautiful. This new staging by Brad Birch and the NYT REP Company features live music and big characters and makes its world première at the Ambassadors Theatre. Following four preview performances, Selfie opened this week (7th October) and is playing selected dates until 12th November 2014.

Opening the same day is the second NYT production, which is an adaption of a novel by children’s author Michael Morpurgo. Several of his books have been adapted for the stage over the years, most famously with the award-winning War Horse, which has been running at the New London Theatre since 2009 and is still one of the West End’s most popular shows. Here, Simon Reade has created a stage play based on Morpurgo’s best-selling story, Private Peaceful. A touching account of the First World War, it relives the life of young soldier Private Tommo Peaceful who is awaiting the firing squad at dawn. Inspired by the many soldiers court-martialled and shot for cowardice during the Great War, this is Simon Reade’s rarely-performed ensemble version of the award-winning book. Directed by Paul Hart, it comes to the Ambassadors Theatre one century on from the First World War and opened there on 7th October too, after three preview performances priorly. It can be seen until 21st November 2014.

Just behind them is the NYT’s version of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Macbeth, which is given a unique twist in this electrifying adaption by Ed Hughes. This new take on his dark tale of paranoia and ambition is now set within an unstable Europe between 1910 and 1914, in the lead-up to the First World War where, behind enemy lines, a tormented Macbeth’s severe intentions lead to dire consequences. Adapted and directed by Ed Hughes, and featuring music by Jim Hustwitt, this new production of Macbeth has completed its preview period at the Ambassadors and opened on 8th October, the following day from its two ‘sister’ shows. It runs until 26th November 2014.

These three productions from the National Youth Theatre each offer a fresh view of tried and tested work – well worth taking a look at.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Thursday 9th October 2014