The Court Theatre’s Youth Company will be tackling a terrifyingly relevant, comic and playful story this June when they take to the stage to perform Vernon God Little.
The Court Youth Company is a training and performance company for young performers aged 17 – 21. Members audition in November to spend the following year at The Court with the company, meeting twice a week for three hours to learn and practise skills that help them produce two plays over the course of the year. Vernon God Little is their first performance as a company.
The play follows teenager Vernon after his best friend instigates a school shooting, murdering sixteen of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. This leaves Vernon as the scapegoat for a tragedy that quickly gathers the attention of television reporter Eulalio “Lally” Ledesma.
“It’s a crazy, whirlwind story,” said Rachel Sears, The Court’s Programmes Manager (Education, Training and Jesters), who oversees The Court Youth Company.
“The Court Youth Company is made up of some of Canterbury’s most talented young actors. They’re all creative performers who want to stretch themselves – and the way they’ve approached this story and have gotten into the characters makes me feel like it’s the right play for them to be doing,” she said.
William Burns, a Court Youth Company alumni, has re-joined the company in a new capacity for Vernon God Little. He is co-directing the play alongside director and performer Tom Eason, who is one half of Canterbury theatre company Two Productions.
For Burns, his previous experience with The Court Youth Company has been invaluable.
“I was in The Court Youth Company over the last two years and did four shows with the company. I met Tom Eason through the Company who is co-directing this show with me now and I also teach younger kids drama at The Court, which all started through being selected for The Court Youth Company and getting those connections.”
Coming back to the company as a director, rather than an actor, has been an exciting challenge for Burns.
“It’s been a really good creative challenge for me being back in the room in a different position. What’s exciting about this show is how fast-paced it is – it’s the fastest script I’ve ever read. Every actor in the company gets a place to shine and their moment in the spot-light.”
With over twenty characters, The Court Youth Company have their work cut out for them bringing Vernon God Little to life. Based on the Booker Prize winning novel by DBC Pierre, Sears thinks it has been a fantastic opportunity for the company’s young actors – as well as the professional practitioners at The Court.
“These young performers remind us why we got into theatre because they’ve got a huge amount of passion for the project. It’s a learning opportunity for them, but also for the professionals that they’re working with. It connects us with the emerging performers of the future, which is invaluable for a theatre.”
One such performer, Miriam Qualls, who will be playing a range of characters in Vernon God Little, has already made the jump from The Court Youth Company to The Court Theatre’s mainstage, having played Lavinia in Titus Andronicus earlier this year.
As for what audiences can expect from this fast-paced, black comedy, Burns promises a thrilling and topical performance that he thinks will resonate strongly with its connection to the spate of school shootings in America.
“Audiences can expect a fast-paced and exciting comedy with young people really pushing themselves to their limits.”
With performances already sold out, keen viewers will have to wait until The Court Youth Company’s next performance, Children of the Night, in December.