The performances given by talented young actors, typically from a very deprived background, were the best possible testament to the work done by this extraordinary charity.
The programme devised for the event, My Story, My Monologue, allowed the actors to express, in their own words and through selected passages from Shakespeare, their personal response to the events of the past year. Speeches such as Ophelia’s ‘O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted’ [Hamlet Act 2, Scene 1] or Arcite’s ‘Let’s think this prison holy sanctuary’ [The Two Noble Kinsmen, Act 2, Scene 2] were given fresh meaning by some truly exceptional performers, while original monologues on a theme of freedom were urgent, eloquent and delivered with unforgettable passion.
Intermission graduates have gone on to successful careers in film and television, or with companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company. However, the charity, which was set up in 2008, goes far beyond offering free drama lessons:
‘It’s about so much more than acting,’ said Alexander Hoare, who chairs the trustees of IYT, ‘It’s about coaching vulnerable young people in important life skills: teaching them about teamwork, giving them self-esteem and career prospects.’
Darren Raymond, IYT’s founder and artistic director, confirmed the charity’s broader purpose: ‘It has been a difficult time for our young people. The pandemic and the recent global focus on racism have led to high levels of mental health problems. And there are financial difficulties, too. We provide a lot of care, including food bursaries, because some of our young people are living independently and really struggling to survive. So yes, theatre is at the heart of our training, but this programme is really about walking with young people and supporting them in all aspects of their lives.’
The success of IYT’s artistic and social mission has won many high-profile supporters in the arts and we were honoured to be joined by Sir Mark Rylance, another trustee of the charity, who snatched a moment between takes on a film set to pay tribute to Darren and his team:
‘This is the most wonderful young company of classical actors,’ he said. ‘Whether they’re doing a Shakespeare play or making movies on their mobile phones, they’ve been given the ability to express themselves very, very authentically. It’s a joyous thing to be part of Intermission Youth and to help these young people not only to express themselves, but to have a community, to have a sanctuary where one is able to make mistakes and go into the places where these great old plays and stories take us.’
In a spirited Q&A with our online audience, the actors were thoughtful, articulate and challenging. Perhaps the last word should go Pia Somersby, whose monologue, Guaranteed, perfectly expressed the aspirations of the group:
‘People need people, to build platforms, to survive. As long as we find something we are good at in this one life and we stick to it no matter what, we will accomplish our dreams and achieve many things.’