Much Ado About Something: How the Citizens Theatre Young Co Are Dealing With Self-Isolation

Like so many organisations, we've had to postpone all our drama classes and activities. In response, our brilliant Learning team have been busy planning new ways of connecting with participants. 

One of the groups quickly adapting is our Young Company. This group of 18-22 year olds usually meet each Wednesday and take part in different acting, writing and devising activities. Here, Lauren Mitchell tells us all about the Young Co's first virtual meeting, how it came about and why she's optimistic for the future:

Lauren Mitchell and the Young Co. during their schools' tour of Scarfed for Life

Last week was a rollercoaster to say the least! I started it thinking I was going to be in development for its entirety, working on a really exciting piece with some incredible artists. Right now, I thought I'd be performing a work-in-progress of the piece and reaping the fruits of our creativity. But I’m not. Like so many others, I’m keeping myself in my house and wondering the big question of ‘what’s next?’ Thankfully, I managed to have one day of development last Tuesday. As we lost ourselves in ideas and words and poetry and music however, emails came flooding in cancelling jobs and opportunities for many months to come. I saw these talented young women deflate in front of me as all their work disappeared, and with it our project too. It was at this time that I received a message saying all Young Co. sessions were cancelled until further notice.  

I was a member for four years before I graduated from Uni in 2018. Since graduating, I've directed two schools’ tours with the Young Co. and I was assistant director on their recent production Adrift. So, I have a very strong relationship with the current Young Co. and I'm still part of their online group chat. My heart sank further when I read that it was going to stop. I've seen first-hand how young people depend on it in a variety of ways. For me, it not only massively aided my career, but it was a place to escape to and flex my creative muscles with no fear of judgment. It was also a huge part of my social life and some of my closest friends come from my time there. 

Lauren worked as assistant director on the Young Co's recent production Adrift

‘I’ll organise a video call tomorrow night haha,’ I said half-jokingly on the group chat. But as soon as I got home it was all I could think about. I thought about how it could happen, what we could talk about, what we could read. Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I had been dying for excuse to look at it… so here was my excuse. I spent the rest of Wednesday planning it and miraculously, it worked! There may have been a small number of us, but we were all so present and eager. We began a discussion about the first scene and read Benedick and Beatrice’s first encounter. Despite being miles apart, we all felt something. ‘I was really angry and frustrated! Benedick is so patronising,’ said someone. ‘I wanted to reach out a touch you through the screen,’ said another. We were once again lost in our worlds of creativity.  

Members of the Young Co are still meeting up regularly online

This has been a sad week for theatre, undoubtedly. Within days hundreds of productions, rehearsals, workshops, and groups have shut down. We theatre animals thrive on the live event. We love being there all at the same time, experiencing the same emotions, breathing the same air, and that has been robbed from us. But our immense creativity has not been. We are still hungry for art and stories and connection. This week has also shown me how generous our industry is. Numerous theatres, companies and organisations have shared their resources and recordings online at no cost. In a time where it maybe feels like theatre is dying, it seems to be at its strongest.  

I walked my dog today and it was the most beautiful day I’ve seen this year. It felt like nature was breathing, filling her lungs and restoring herself. Maybe that is what this lock-down is for some of us, a chance to breathe. A chance to read that book, fill in that funding application, write that idea down, talk to your friends about your favourite play. We theatre animals are resilient, kind, determined, strong and above all wonderful. This will not be the end of us.  

The Young Co. have lots more video calls planned over the next few weeks - hopefully with some special guests joining us online too. We’ll let you know how we get on! 

You can find out more about the Citizens Young Co. and some of their past projects on our website