Director Lizi Patch is busy working on her latest project, Little Shop of Horrors with City Varieties Youth Theatre. I chat to her about her interesting career path and why she enjoys directing young people.
I LOVE Little Shop of Horrors, and think it’s an ideal show for younger people – all great fun and some cracking songs, with opportunities for big ensemble numbers.
Take a look at Lizi’s thoughts on the show…
You’ve staged Little Shop Of Horrors before, can audiences expect a different production of the show? Any twists we can look forward to?
Absolutely. Throughout my eight years as Artistic Director of CVYT I have developed strong working relationships with West Leeds professional creatives and this production is born out of my experience with the CVYT and the strong collective artistic vision of my creative team. The poster gives a good idea if our strong design concept and how that has evolved.
The twists and turns of the script will be faithfully and spectacularly bought to life on the beautiful City Varieties stage with the help of our Audrey 2 puppets provided by Leeds Based puppet company Puppets4Peas.
How many children are involved in the show? Do you find the audition process more difficult when you are casting young people?
We have a cast of 60 young people aged from 8-17. All phenomenal.
Auditions are always challenging, it is important that every cast member feels valued and recognised for the work they have put in – throughout their time with us and on the audition day itself. We are a very ensemble focussed youth theatre and as a result both principals and ensemble parts are equally valued and the whole cast has plenty to get their teeth into. The level of support the youth theatre have shown each other during the audition process has been incredibly heartening too.
Why is it so important that young people become involved in the arts?
I have worked with young people for 30 years and have seen the positive benefits of involvement in the arts over and over again. For some years now the emphasis has been on teaching young people to pass exams and little else – and as a result their critical faculties and sense of self can be seriously eroded. The arts give young people permission to ‘fail’, to play and to experiment. Through this they learn so much. With us the CVYT members build strong friendship groups and develop self-esteem, self-expression, empathy and resilience . Also the power of practice and perseverance. These are all transferable life skills. Oh and it’s FUN – we all laugh ALOT.
What have previous CVYT members gone on to achieve? Any stand-out successes?
Previous CVYT members have gone on to careers as (amongst other things) professional actors, teachers, charity workers, choreographers and writers. Previous member Megan Parkinson plays Alys Karstark in Game of Thrones and Sam Murgatroyd in Ackley Bridge.
Megan says of her time with the CVYT: “I am very grateful for CVYT. It gave me the confidence to audition for the NYT REP company which ended up being the spark to my acting career. CVYT was a place that brought laughter to my week and friends who I consider to be very precious to me”.
Also former member Seb Trujilo has returned as a volunteer to work with the CVYT and ended up doing sound design and operation for the Winter Show – which was fantastic. To me they’re all successes.
Tell us about your own career – why did you decide to focus on working with young adults?
As a professional freelance Director and Writer I work with young people and adult professionals alike. My only proviso is that I have to really care about the work and the people I spend time with. When I work with young people I am genuinely honoured to be part of their creative journey as their director and mentor. The day I stop learning from young people is the day I’ll give up. (Clue: that’ll never happen). My most recent professional show was Punching The Sky which I wrote and toured to Northern Venues including the Carriageworks, Hull Truck and Soho Theatre. I have written a couple of afternoon plays for Radio 4 and have a show in development now (embargoed for the time being!).
Is it difficult choosing suitable shows to perform with young people?
Yes. We need more writers who are willing and excited to tackle work for large young casts – with proper meaty roles, especially for females. Youth Theatre is not second rate work, it is challenging and current and should be recognised as such. These young people are the professional actors and audiences of the future and there should be more material that resonates with them. Equally audiences need to take a risk and go and see Youth Theatre whether or not they know the young people involved – staying connected to young people’s voices is more important than ever before.
I couldn’t agree more with Lizi Patch and really admire and respect her work and her views on the arts. Take her very, very good advice and try something new by heading along to Little Shop of Horrors at City Varieties Music Hall on 26th and 27th July.