Author: Tim O’Connell

Aug 15, 2019

A glowing appraisal from the UK press is no mean feat when you are one of 3880 shows and 35,000 performers vying for attention at the largest arts festival in the world.

Yet that is exactly what the Nelson Youth Theatre have managed to do during their eight-day run of Grease at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Dating back to 1947, the festival attracts thousands of performers from across the world to showcase their acts in Scotland’s capital.

A 26-strong cast and entourage of crew, parents and extended family were among the throng this year, garnering rave reviews from audiences while also immersing themselves in the atmosphere of the event.

The trip followed the company’s attendance at last year’s Fringe to perform Holy Moses, which served as an opportunity to see how to play the game in preparation for the 2019 trip.

NYT director and producer Richard Carruthers said it took a couple of days for the Nelson company – which included two Norwegian ex-youth theatre teens and one on her OE living in Portugal – to find their feet along Edinburgh’s cobbled streets and intriguing mix of entertainment. 

“There is a lot of weirdly fringe stuff at the fringe, not all of it good. Theres also a lot of straight presentations of musicals or well loved plays … Grease fitted in well.”

Following one technical rehearsal in the 120-seat Space Triplex venue, the company began its run of eight performances over the following eight days, with six of those being sell-outs. 

preview article listed the show as one of the top 10 youth shows to see at the Fringe, while one reviewer gave the show three stars – the same number given to the professional touring West End cast of Grease.  

“Audience feedback was excellent, people loved the show, loved that it was Grease “with real teenagers”, and loved that we had come all across the world to present it,” Carruthers said.

Balancing rehearsals with school and study, many of the performers raised the $4000 budgeted for the trip through evening or weekend jobs. 

A write up in The Times of London newspaper said the Nelson-based company’s efforts to attend Edinburgh “embodied the true spirit of the Fringe”. 

When not onstage, the essential act of flyering offered a fun way to promote the show as well as mingle with visitors and fellow actors on the city’s Royal Mile. The company had 10,000 fliers printed and distributed at a rate of 1500 a day.

Performers also made time to see shows in a variety of genres not usually available in Nelson. 

Not surprisingly, new musicals were top of everyone’s list, including one Early Mornings the Musical featuring two ex-Youth Theatre members in lead roles, a musical on the life of Scotland’s greatest hero, poet Robert Burns and crowd favourite Unfortunate, “a very rude reimagining” of The Little Mermaid.  The Fringe itself is still continuing for another two weeks, although term time commitments meant most of the young touring party had to get back to Nelson. Carruthers said interest in returning next year was high among those who had attended this year and from those unable to attend. 

However, he would let the dust settle on 2019 before beginning the mammoth process of organising the next trip, with the next show dependent on what rights could be obtained and the skill sets of those wishing to go.