Donald Stewart’s Top 10 Youth Theatre shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019

As we get closer and closer to Edinburgh and you are thinking of a worthy cause, can there be anything more worthy than giving the young pups a hand up? Is there anything more likely to warm your heart than helping the next generation? 

Thing is we also want to genuinely warm our hands in appreciation so here are a few choices from me that might manage to do that…

As with any recommendations that come without necessarily seeing the shows that are on offer a few criteria are applied, namely reputation, past experiences and the pitches being made. I can honestly say that when it comes to youth theatre almost all of the work that I have seen – and presented – is earnestly made. What you see onstage is there because of a variety of things including a real desire, genuine need to perform and tests your own view of your work against the views of a paying public. For many that is friends, family and the distant relationships with a few bob to put towards a ticket. Youth theatre does not often get a walk up crowd – until we get to the Fringe. Then things are different.

You can of course try and guess what is likely to be the quality in the 34 productions brought by the American High School Theatre Festival, the 7 from the American Performing Arts International or whatever you make of the International Collegiate Theatre Festival. They shall no doubt be of an exacting enough standard. 

You could muse of the possibilities that Imperial College, Sussex University, Reading University, Napier, Carthage College, York, UCLA or the inevitable Cambridge performances are like – there are many more Universities and Colleges represented. Abingdon and Guidlford High even bring school work to the table as well as Pauline Quirke’s PQA which has groups at their very own venue from Wolverhampton to Glasgow, Edinburgh to Hemel Hempstead. There’s a lot of young work being presented to old heads at the Fringe.

So, I have corralled my recommendations into a few categories that might help. 

Education based – University/ College type drama groups

I am going to go for a couple of choices – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with The Inverclyde Youth Theatre. This was presented last year over at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock and KAYOS, from that area are bringing it to us. Be careful though it is not the only version this year but you can catch this one at the Double Tree by Hilton; be quick it is only there for 3 days…

We also have Trips and Falls by STAG. Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG) were part of Sky TV’s search for the best amateur theatre in the UK a few years ago but have not overly suffered for the experience – especially being judged by Miriam Margolyees. This is all about a race – a race to Arran involving some ashes and can be found at the Space at Niddry Street. 

Private youth theatre types – franchised schools and those where the ability to pay can get you the expertise

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Next we have my pick from here which is from Acting Coach Scotland with Leopold Vindictive. Belgian resistance and pigeons – what could possibly go wrong! It shall be at the Space at the North Bridge.

Things I may have seen before…

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Z Theatre Company are back with Luminescence which I might swing past as I have seen some good work from them before but the two that really caught my eye were Grease By Nelson Youth Theatre and Chatroom by The Parker and Snell Youth Company.

Nelson were here last year with Holy Moses and being from New Zealand they brought a couple of people who I thought really smashed it and got plenty of my attention because they came from NEW ZEALAND!!! This year more conventional fare perhaps with Grease and it is at the Space at Triplex.

Parker and Snell, I have seen a couple of times and always enjoyed their work. Chatroom is pure teenage work with social media, the internet a massive part of the performance. They can be found at the Space at Niddry Street.

Larger scale youth theatres – those with a national focus or reputation where the nation expects…

F.Off by National Youth Theatre of Great Britain is intriguing just by the title. Given that it is the GB level performance company should guarantee some decent quality? We continue some of that social media focus here at the Underbelly as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is put on trial – will he be found guilty – the really intriguing part is that we the audience become the jury?

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A Grave Situation by Young Pleasance shall be a decent show… they will have the best set, a truly ensemble cast and a great story – they did this in 2009 too – so we can look forward to the Pleasance once again welcoming their best of the future, funded by Pleasance Futures and we can be a part of it all. 

Best of the Rest – the plucky, the lucky and the odd

Six down and four to go…

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Not quite falling out of the previous categories, we have four productions that I think may be an acceptable risk this time round. Judging by their subject matter in particular I think you could do with seeing (Blank) By Alice Birch and Northern Youth Theatre. The play is form National Connections 2018, we are back in the Space venues, this time back at Triplex and a series of unconnected scenes are used to explore chaos, fragility and desperate connections. 

The Merry Wives of Seoul by EDP Theatre Company Soon Chun Hyang University (Korea) has a Korean take on a Shakespearean classic that can be seen at C South. In recent years I have really loved some of the productions brought form the Far East. Their Take on Shakespeare in particular has always been worth a visit.

Then we have Pronoun by Trinity Youth Theatre which taps into the current LGBT issues around gender identity and dysphoria. Here we have a couple that started differently to how they may end and I am delighted to see a piece that does tackle an issue that can have for some, many thorns – all of which deserve to be grasped. This is at Greenside at Infirmary Street.

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Finally Taking Flight by Zen Hour Company and University Centre, Weston showcases an emerging group from one of the foremost developing contemporary student courses and universities – or so the publicity states! This is being performed at Greenside at Infirmary Street is a piece that harnesses creativity at its heart which truly excites me.

That excitement comes across in each of these younger than young companies attempting to make their mark – showing them some love would go a long way to encourage their development. I hope to get around to see as many as I can to see if my instinct still runs true…


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with The Inverclyde Youth Theatre

Trips and Falls by Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG) 

Acting Coach Scotland with Leopold Vindictive

Grease By Nelson Youth Theatre 

Chatroom by The Parker and Snell Youth Company

Off by National Youth Theatre of Great Britain 

A Grave Situation by Young Pleasance 

(Blank) By Alice Birch and Northern Youth Theatre 

The Merry Wives of Seoul by EDP Theatre Company Soon Chun Hyang University (Korea) 

Pronoun by Trinity Youth Theatre 

Taking Flight by Zen Hour Company and University Centre, Weston 

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