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Darren Raymond - Intermission Youth Theatre Interview

Intermission Youth are a London based company who help to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people living in deprivation and experiencing high levels of anti-social behaviour, family breakdown, dependency and criminality. The ethos is that constant support, nurture and care in a young person's life can give them the confidence and belief to make positive choices and change the course of their lives.

Intermission Youth Theatre was set up in 2008 when actor Darren Raymond was asked to become Artistic Director and the company now are celebrating their 15th anniversary.

For the anniversary they are staging two productions at the Arcola Theatre. Excluded which is devised by the company and based on the world of Shakespeare and Taming Who? which is based on The Taming of the Shrew. 

Ahead of the productions both running at London’s Arcola Theatre we caught up with artistic director Darren Raymond to discuss the piece.

What was behind choosing to stage both productions?
It makes perfect sense, for us to mark 15 years of youth work with something special. 
Our mission is to transform young lives through theatre, we do this by remixing Shakespeare and bringing the work to new audiences. 
We decided on a remount of our 2019 hit show, EXCLUDED, by our Youth Theatre, which holds a mirror up to the education system. Schools are still failing our young people and we felt compelled to address it through performance. 
Also taking to the stage will be a cast of Intermission graduates performing TAMING WHO?, a remix of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew! This play examines attitudes toward gender roles,  relationships, misogyny and more. 

Having the graduates in rep with the youth theatre demonstrates what Intermission is all about, bringing people together and transforming lives for the better, through constant care, community, and encouragement. 
Tell me more about Intermission Youth, the 15th Anniversary.
At a real low point in my life, I was introduced to and fell in love with theatre and storytelling. In this workshop we played games, and improvised Shakespeare! I was never enthused about his plays in school, they didn’t speak to me, I never felt like I was represented in his world. But there was something different about it this time around, we looked at Othello, a character searching for love, identity and belonging, I could relate. The facilitator wasn’t too bad either, you might recognise the name… Mark Rylance!! He allowed us to respond to the text in a way that was authentic to us, none of this highbrow stuff, we were encouraged to be real. For the first time, I was able to exist in a space where I felt I was able to contribute in a positive way, a space where what I had to share mattered; a space where I didn’t feel excluded.  I had a strong desire to extend this feeling and offer an opportunity to young people who I knew were struggling to get to grips with life and so in 2008 with our founders Rob and Janine Gillion we set up Intermission Youth. 

From a modest 4 young people in attendance at the first ever workshop, I am proud to say that we have since engaged with over 10,000 young people in 15 years and have over 200 young people each year applying to be a part of our Youth Theatre programme.

Darren Raymond. Photo by Richard Jinman.

How do you approach adapting Shakespeare’s text?

We don't speak about Shakespeare, we put the work on its feet and encourage young people to respond to the words in a way that makes sense to them. We improvise the situations that Shakespeare puts his characters in. We explore from a modern lens. There are no rules, we do not put Shakespeare on a pedestal, instead we put our young people on it. We celebrate their discoveries. We devise over a period of 10months and at the end come up with a play inspired by Shakespeare that merges his words, the words and creativity of our young people, into one! 
You frame the production through the lens of youth culture in London today, why did you choose to do this?
I think it makes the work immediate and easy for young Londoners, who often feel disenfranchised from classic literature, particularly Shakespeare, to connect. 
How rewarding is getting to work with such talented young performers?
Extremely, I say we transform lives through the work. One of those lives is mine, I count myself very blessed to be working with gifted young people. 
What keeps you inspired as a creative?
The young people I work with!! 
What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
That this type of work is important for the future of our young people and hope they're compelled to continue to support and spread the word 
Intermission Youth will be staging two productions to celebrate their 15th Anniversary at the Arcola Theatre. Excluded runs from 29 Nov – 16 Dec and Taming Who? runs from 30 Nov – 15 Dec.
For more information about booking tickets

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