Monday, 10 December 2012

Review: "Oh Crumbs, Scary Biscuits!"

By Katie Barnett*

When I was a child, I was a sucker for audience participation. I was always desperate to be picked to go up onto the stage, or for the characters to come through the audience. I loved the idea of being a part of the world that was created and being talked to by the characters. ‘Oh Crumbs, Scary Biscuits!’ offers all of this and more for children between 3 and 7 years old - and if this kind of production had been around when I was 5, I would have been one very happy child indeed...

As I made my way through the SYT building along with over 10 knee high children and their parents, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I must admit, I was half expecting the children to be restless and noisy, but as the production began outside the Brian Cox Studio, I realised that this would not be the case. The children immediately fell silent as they saw the extravagant costume worn by the Chookie Birdie and were captivated by every one of her movements. The participation began with a few timid giggles from the little ones, which soon developed into confident laughter as Chookie squaked in their direction. The children were encouraged to sit on colourful boxes and beanbags, allowing them to sit amongst the characters, and the wee ones clearly loved the attention they were getting from Hansel and Gretel themselves .

The theatre space constantly changed, as we followed Hansel and Gretel through the forest to outside a house made of colourful sweets and flowers, before heading inside the pink patterned living room. Moving from space to space meant that the children were constantly being introduced to new things to look at and engage with, meaning that there was never a moment of boredom. At no point were the audience expected to remain seated - they were constantly encouraged to move around, dancing along with Chookie, and were even invited up to get a ‘bowl of soup’. The interaction was constant, and some of the quick witted and comic answers given by the children were highly entertaining for the parents - when asked what they should put in the soup, one child answered, ‘A crocodile!’ - and it soon occurred to me that this show is not only for the children. The parents loved seeing their little ones having a good time and showing enthusiasm, and it was clear that a lot of the parents bonded with their children over the shared love for the colourful cottage and enthusiastic performances, and were happy to see their children smile and laugh.

Above all, the performance was highly educational. The bold and colourful characters presented told a story in an interactive way, making the little ones listen and learn without even noticing. In my opinion, this interactive environment is 100 times more effective than making a child sit and read a book they aren’t interested in - it educates without being obviously educational. Allowing a story to come to life lets children use all of their senses and makes their imaginations come alive. Not only was there clear educational and thought provoking messages displayed - that we shouldn’t take what isn’t ours or we will get into trouble (when Hansel and Gretel take the sweeties from the house), that good can conquer bad (when the witch is the one who ends up in the oven), and that we shouldn’t resort to violence (when the witch isn’t hurt, but is made to sit on the naughty step instead), but the children were allowed to run free with their imaginations and participate in the story as characters themselves. They were made to feel important and included, and the fact that they were allowed to say and do what they wanted in a safe environment instead of being dictated to meant that their confidence grew from beginning to the end. The children began to assume roles as the performance went on - one child took on the role of the director, and was telling the actors what to do and where to hide, and one girl was concerned for the safety of Gretel, ‘Maybe you should just stay out here instead of going in the house, Gretel’. By the end of the performance, the children had all ventured away from their parents, and were up dancing and singing with the characters, with no inhibitions in the slightest.

By the end of the performance, I left with more than a piece of shiny treasure given to me by Hansel: I left with the belief that interactive children’s theatre is the way forward. With a price that doesn’t greatly differ to a cinema ticket, you definitely get a lot more for your money with this production. Sitting watching a screen and characters that only exist beyond it does not compare to the interactive and exciting experience that SYT’s christmas show can offer, and ‘Oh Crumbs, Scary Biscuits!’ serves for a perfect family outing.

*Katie is a member of SYT's Young Reviewers group. A group of young people who are passionate about performing arts for children and young people. If you want to take part or to find out more, you can email

Review: “Oh Crumbs, Scary Biscuits!”

By Rachel Taylor*

“Oh Crumbs, Scary Biscuits!” is a perfectly balanced blend of the interaction, piz-zazz and imagination that has become a recognisable characteristic of Scottish Youth Theatre productions; and all the classic joy of pantomime!
An intricately balanced performance, the show starts with silence, fantastical costumes and getting the audience dancing. The silence doesn’t last for long though, as the show is chock-full of warmth and friendship from the cast and the audience is carried along into an all-singing, all-dancing (quite literally) fiasco with Hansel and Gretel and their hunt for home.
Some of the show’s content is controlled by the imaginations of the children in the audience – not a select one or two, but every child in the room. The actors bring the audience to pack up their rucksacks, suit up for travelling and be look-outs for the evil witches as they join them on a trek through the woods into, eventually, the enchanted house made of goodies. (A nod, here, to the set designer.)
Songs, chants, rhymes, games and lots of dances pepper the show with interaction and fun, and subtle hints as to the progression of the story draw the kids in (and entertain the bigger kids as they spot them too!).
All too soon, the show wraps to a cheery close with celebratory songs, a reprise of the dance which is (by then) a firm favourite, good triumphing over evil, and every audience member being given a small momento of the show to take away with them.
Heart-warming, seasonal, festive fun for big and little kids alike!

*Rachel is a member of SYT's Young Reviewers group. A group of young people who are passionate about performing arts for children and young people. If you want to take part or to find out more, you can email

Friday, 26 October 2012

Review: Marcia Murray MacDonald's Midnight Halloween Murder Mystery

By Rachel Taylor

I love shows with a difference.
Why use a conventional theatre space when you
can utilise an entire building, multiple great sets without scene changes and have the atmosphere already buzzing when your audience walk in?
The performance of the Junior Sleuths course – “Marcia Murray MacDonald's Midnight
Halloween Murder Mystery” – ticked all of these boxes and more. The young actors became a
gaggle of nightmarish creatures, but wouldn’t you know it:
There’s been a murder! Or, well, there would be.
But first there was a Halloween documentary for the cast to set about. The audience for the show became the audience for their documentary and was enthralled and entertained watching arguments over roles, props and interpretation. We were entertained by adorably dense witches, game-loving zombie twins, the cutest ghost in history, a mad scientist (with a true love for Cosmo the cat), a rather tall pumpkin, a demoted cat, Dracula with a secret, an unimpressed devil and, of course, Marcia, who played a star turn as the overbearing star and producer of the piece along with her cameraman.
However, the audience were not just there to observe. Each audience member was given a pack at the start of the show to facilitate their job: be keeping an eye out for a murderer in their midst. Clues, hints and red herrings abounded as the group moved through the building from room-to-room and the antics progressed, spattered with stories, songs and Halloween games – the last being great for further audience involvement.
Every location in the building was brilliantly prepared, with eerie lighting and fun props – from the cauldron in the witches’ hovel to the sugar doughnuts strung up in the zombies’ games room!
All too soon, the audience arrived in the last room – the main studio. The cast gathered on a truly beautiful set for a banquet with Dracula…but one of the guests wasn’t eating much…
The final scene was dramatic and brilliantly executed. Encompassing a beautiful tableau, it was a masterful scene that belied the youth of the actors.
Finally the cast congregated in front of their detective audience for a Q&A session, which brought forth some impressive improvising and, eventually, a confession.
It was, all round, an incredible show. The Scottish theatre scene should watch out – it doesn’t know what’s hit it with the SYT kids!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Review: Family Storytime - Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

By Rachel Taylor*

Nope. No way. I wouldn’t have believed it either – but there really is something right here in Glasgow which is brilliant for families (including children of any age), loads of fun but still educational, perfectly tailored to young minds yet still entertaining for the grown-ups, inclusive to a whole bunch of people and even helps to grow the kids’ imaginations.Welcome to Family Storytime at Scottish Youth Theatre!

Upon arriving for your storytime – in this instance, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – you will be greeted enthusiastically by your storytellers in rhyme. As they lead you into the theatre space you will find yourselves transported: if the tinkling Arabian-sounding music doesn’t take you to far-off places, the shining fabrics hung from the walls and props and the dozens of costume pieces certainly will.

There is a distinct lack of set and scenery, but this is because the imaginations of the audience are key. When creating Ali Baba’s woodland, the children were invited up to discover where their imaginations took them, exploring what they could see, hear and feel in their wood. The storytellers skilfully guide the process, offering suggestions of their own and asking lots of questions for the children to react to. This process happened several times throughout the story, right up to the celebratory feast at the end.

But back to the “theatre space”. Far from trying to keep the kids in seats while lofty actors proclaim down from a stage on high, Family Storytime takes place in a studio – in simple terms, just a room rather than a theatre with a raised stage – keeping the storytellers on a level with their audience: even the little ones on cushions at the front. Not only that, but the children (as a whole group, not just a select one or two) become part of the production – from picking out each character’s costume to walking through the woodland they have imagined together; from helping Ali Baba chop enough wood to feed his family to hunting around for the greedy Kaseem whilst keeping an eye out for the King of Thieves himself! All of these come with rhymes and songs – short and set to recognisable nursery rhyme tunes so that even the smaller participants  will still have them learned in moments.

These active parts are interspersed with short bursts of the story at only a few minutes long at a time – perfect for keeping the little ‘uns from tiring of the tale. 

Once the story is done, there is a short time where imagination is all that rules the roost as little and big kids alike are invited to explore the props, fabrics and costumes in the room and to see what they can become!
All too soon, though, a bell signals tidy-up time and it’s time to leave Arabia behind with “a round of applause, a seal of approval and a big hand”.

The magical time certainly gets my seal of approval and from the entranced children and fascinated families; from seeing every single audience member participate; from hearing the gushing praise as the audience left, I’d guess it got theirs too.

* Rachel is a member of SYT's Young Reviewers group. A group of young people who are passionate about performing arts for children and young people. If you want to take part or to find out more, you can email

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bringing Stories Alive - Creetown Drama Summer School July 2012
By Megan Monteith
On Monday the 16th of July, the Scottish Youth Theatre came down to Creetown to do a workshop with us. There was a junior workshop and a senior workshop, in which I attended the senior one. Craig, Jen and Emma were the three people that came down to do the drama workshop with us.

The workshop was from the 16th of July to the 20th of July so we had a lot of time to learn things. On the first day of the workshop I was quite shy and not sure about doing it, but Craig, Jen and Emma were such lovely, kind and encouraging people which boosted my confidence a lot. Craig also told us that we were doing a performance for our friends and family at the end of the week, which we were all frightened to do but when our confidence kicked in we were raring to go.

Craig was the Artistic Director, and he did games which helped us focus, script reading and role play. At first we found it hard to focus and we giggled quite a lot but after we kept practicing, we were very focused by the end of it. We also read a story which helped us think about emotions.

Jen was the trainee Director, and she did movement pieces with us. We did a movement piece which was based on the story Craig showed us and we had to think of three emotions within the story and show them through movement. I found doing the movement pieces helped me with my confidence a lot before our performance on Friday. 

Emma was the Visual Artist, and she did crafts with us. The first thing we did with Emma was to help us show our artistic side, so she rolled out a big sheet of paper and we drew shapes and patterns etc. We also made our own flying machines, in which we used one for our performance. I enjoyed the arts and crafts because I like doing that sort of thing at home. 

On the second last day we worked hard on perfecting our performance for the next day. Our performance was about Creetown having its own Aviator Club and we did some role play at the beginning and then went into a movement piece at the end. I enjoyed to the movement piece in the performance because we had worked so hard on perfecting it. My job was to carry in one of our Aviator club's newest members with two other people. The whole movement piece was basically about making the new Aviator club member an official Aviator club member by preparing her for her first flight.

Overall I really enjoyed the drama workshop because it really boosted my confidence and I learnt a lot of new techniques as well. I really hope Craig, Jen and Emma will come to Creetown again and do another workshop, and I'm sure everyone else wants them to come again too!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Daily Blogger #2: Rory Beaton

Hi I’m Rory, I’m 17 and I’m from Aboyne.
This Summer Festival I’m on the Technical Theatre Course and I’m the Technical ASM (assistant stage manager) on the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
My favourite performer would have to be Katy Perry. 

In the movie of my life I think Jackie Chan would be the best actor to play me.

People should come to my show because it’s something completely different. The performance is a promenade AND outside which means that the audience follow the action on foot. From what I’ve seen in rehearsals so far this really helps the action and is uber exciting! It’s a challenging show to work on and there’s lots of different possible problems to watch out for – like the rain! Hope to see y’all there! J RB x

Friday, 6 July 2012

Daily Blogger 1: Sean O'Brien

The first daily blog of #SF12 is here!

Hi, my name's Sean, I'm 16. I'm in the SF 12 production of  'A Midsummer Nights Dream' playing the part of Demetrius. 

Today in rehearsals we did a full read-through of the play, and then after lunch we worked on our characters and their relationships with the other characters in the play, which I really enjoyed and found incredibly useful.

I don’t really know who my favourite actor is, there are just so many. But my favourite performer would definitely be Matt Bellamy of Muse, he’s just so talented.

If I could play any role in any film, it would definately be Batman. It would be so good!


I think people should come see my show as it will be really interesting to watch as it’s a promenade performance, and I think it will be really different to any previous Summer Festival show!

Summer Festival is just really great and with the new 6 week course I feel like I'm learning so much, and that it will definitely help me with a career in acting.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Media Release - Summer Season at SYT

The summer season - with something for every age - gets underway at SYT

Drama enthusiasts from across Scotland descended on The Old Sheriff Court (Scottish Youth Theatre h.q) this week to begin intensive rehearsals for the annual Summer Festival. The five week Performance and Production course will see participants rehearse six days a week for up to twelve hours, take part in master classes led by industry professionals and perform in large scale productions open to public audiences.

After focussing on all things horror last year, Summer Festival 2012 will this year focus on all things Shakespeare whilst incorporating dynamic and contemporary twists to the bard’s classical works.
“2012 is the World Festival of Shakespeare so we wanted to acknowledge this and at the same time put a unique spin on things” says SYT Artistic Director Mary McCluskey.

The main house productions this year include Twelfth Night at the Tron Theatre Glasgow; A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the Fringe at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a devised production ‘An Eye For An Eye’, based on the blood bath that is Titus Andronicus, at the Brian Cox Studio at Scottish Youth Theatre.

This year’s Festival sees the inclusion of the new Performance and Production Learning Programme, a six week course that boasts SQA and SCQF accreditation.

Fraser MacLeod, Associate Artistic Director explains why this is such a significant move for the organisation: “This is a major step forward for Scottish Youth Theatre. The work we deliver has been officially recognised as offering educational merit and the young people that take part in the course will now, on completion, have a tangible qualification to show for it”.

During the summer months when everyone else normally take the opportunity to relax and wind down, Scotland’s national theatre ‘for&by’ young people are at their busiest. Just last week, SYT Productions (SYT’s in-house performance group) toured new play ‘The Weegie Board – A West Of Scotland Ghost Story’ to London as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The spine chilling tale about a group of friends meddling in the occult went down a storm with teenagers.

The other end of the age spectrum is also well catered for with SYT’s hugely popular Family Storytime sessions going out on tour around shopping malls in Scotland in conjunction with the Daily Record’s ‘Big Read’ tour. These interactive story telling sessions are tailored for 3-7’s and the whole family, encouraging audiences to get involved, bring their imaginations and become part of the story.

“When the Daily Record approached us to be involved in the Big Read, we couldn’t turn it down, it was just a perfect match” comments Associate Director for Early Years Karen McGrady-Parker. “The first weekend in Stirling was a huge success with audiences at the Thistle Centre and we’ll be out on tour at shopping centres around Scotland for the next month so there’s plenty of opportunity for families to catch a performance”.

Full info on all Scottish Youth Theatre events, performances and activities available at

Monday, 2 July 2012

SF 12 - Twisted Shakespeare is go!

After much anticipation, planning and general waiting for July to come around, Summer Festival 2012 'Twisted Shakespeare' is finally upon us.

On Thursday of last week, participants on the six week Performance and Production Learning Programme, began a series of master classes. Today they were joined by participants of the five week Performance and Production Course - signifying that rehearsals are already under way and that the countdown to opening night! The three week Intermediate Course participants will began rehearsals on Monday 16th July.

As ever, SF aims to CREATE wonderful theatre, enable participants to not only IMAGINE but realise exactly what it is they are capable of and INSPIRE absolutely everyone involved: audiences, staff and participants alike. This year's strong programme is set to do all of the above and more.

  • Twelfth Night: Tron Theatre Glasgow, directed by Mary McCluskey
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream: Royal Botanic Gardens, directed by Fraser MacLeod. Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • An Eye For An Eye: a new devised production inspired by Titus Andronicus, directed by Lisa Gregan 

In addition to rehearsing for and appearing in the main house productions, Twisted Shakespeare will incorporate a series of master classes and skills workshops, a very special performance from SYT Productions of 'The Weegie Board - A West Of Scotland Ghost Story' (just back from a London tour) and A Midsummer Night's Ball themed social event. 

We're fans of all things digital so like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for regular updates. And chat / connect with us in general as it's great to know what you think. 

Here's to a great festival! 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: Family Storytime - The Lion and the Mouse

By Sean Greenhorn*

Children's theatre is a unique offshoot of normative theatrical practice. The dependency on conventional narrative delivery is lessened and the performance instead employs a looseness that allows for, say, the introduction of a rapping explorer in comically over-sized glasses. Scottish Youth Theatre's Family Storytime shows are aimed at children aged between 3 and 7. At such a young age it goes without saying that much of the traditional ways of consuming theatre -sit quietly in the your assigned seat- has not yet been engrained onto their psyche (although this reviewer finds them better behaved than a lot of adult theatre audiences...). The gang over at Family Story Time realise this and not only do they offer a colourful, engaging and easy to follow story but they present the children with opportunity after opportunity to get involved in the story.

This current season of Family Storytime are all based around the timeless fables of Aesop (each season is based around a different theme; we have recently had fairy tales, rare tales etc.). Aesop's fables survived for two connected reasons; their brevity and their strong morals. This makes them perfect fodder for the Family Storytime treatment; in this weeks tale The Lion and the Mouse they spend 20 minutes of their 45/50 minute show  simply taking a tour of the 'safari'. The children were -of course- on board the bus the entire time. It is telling that it is the product of a Youth Theatre; that inherently understands what children want, which is simply to run around and make noise. What better opportunity to do this than by encouraging them to pretend to be monkeys?

A constant musical rhythm is maintained throughout the entire show that keeps the involved in the changing plot, although they may have to stay pretending to be those monkeys, they have got to get back on that bus, as the song (and the show) must continue. This is maintained throughout the entire performance; sure, the songs change but the beat is constant. At moments were there was a threat of disengagement from their audience, the performers are well trained and canny enough to realise this and engage with them on a one-to-one level. For instance, one child who did not involve himself with any of the interactive elements was asked (along with several of the other children, he was not singled out) what animal he was. His response to this was 'An evolved ape' which, whilst being a particularly smart answer, nonetheless demonstrates an involvement with the text on display. Family Storytime is an innovative and engaging way to introduce children to theatre, with 5/10 minutes at the end of every performance dedicated to the children storming the stage and 'playing' (in the theatrical sense, perhaps?) with the props. Each and every show not only presents a fun story for kids to enjoy but also encourages imaginative thought and, importantly, an introduction to the art of performance.     

Sean is a member of SYT's Young Reviewers group. A group of young people who study theatre and they are passionate about performing arts for children and young people. If you want to take part or to find out more, you can email

Thursday, 24 May 2012

We've asked a Greek to write about the Aesop's Fables.

This Family Storytime Season is Aesop's Fables season. Although we thought that we knew every single story, we realised that we didn't know that much about this weekend's the North Wind and the Sun. For this reason, we had a Greek friend of ours to write this post and tell what the story is all about and who is Aesop anyway.

Being Greek you learn about Aesop before you even learn to speak. The first thing you must remember is that every character in Aesop's stories symbolises an idea or a human attribute. The fox is cunning, the tortoise is steady and determined, the ants are hard-working. Aesop very cleverly used animals instead of people, in order to engage audiences and actually help them learn. He was in fact the first storyteller.

Now, this weekend's story, the North Wind and the Sun, is a story about persuasion and force. This time however, we don't have animals as characters. In the story, the Wind and the Sun fight about who is stronger. Seeing no other way of resolving this problem, they decide to try their power upon a poor traveller. What follows is a hard battle between cold and heat, between force and persuasion. The story gives many opportunities for fun and games, but at the same time it has a very useful message about all the things we can achieve with persuasion. 

Scottish Youth Theatre's storytellers have a unique way to transform stories to a fun and engaging family activity. You know, Aesop's fables were never meant to be in books. Their true purpose was to be performed by a storyteller.     

The North Wind and the Sun, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May, 10:30 and 12:30.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review: Family Storytime - The Mice in Council

By Sophie Charlotte Thomas*

As soon as I arrived at Scottish Youth Theatre, I could feel the energy and excitement bubbling from all the little children outside the Edwin Morgan Studio. I couldn’t help but wonder how their energy would be contained throughout the production.

As soon as the doors swung open and two enthusiastic storytellers burst out welcoming the audience, my previous concern disappeared. Each child was captivated by the actors’ animated voices and faces. As we were led into the studio, which can only be described as a treasure trove of colourful props and costumes, the children were instantly drawn into this imaginary world

The simple story of Mr Higgins, his cat and some mischievous mice who liked swimming in soup (a past time which I suspect will not feature in this year’s Olympic Games) was jam-packed with opportunities for audience participation: catchy songs, little actions, the chance to help the mice solve their problems and even swim in soup alongside their mousey friends.

The experience was fully interactive for every child and the adults were provided with great amusement from some of the hilarious comments made by the children. Like when asked if they knew what a council is, one of the children wittingly replied “East Renfrewshire is a council right?”. The story allowed the children to think and learn without even being aware of it.

The performance itself was exciting, simple and, frankly, full of fun. The actors were full of enthusiasm. Each performer had incredible improvisation skills, reacting and responding to everything the children said. The simplicity of the performance made it accessible to children of all ages.

The story was the perfect length and the children were transported to this imaginary world, which becomes evident from just looking at their faces and listening to their laughter. The children’s imagination was stretched and explored and the imaginary wall usually found in a theatre performance was completely broken down. They even had the chance to play with the amazing collection of props and costumes on the stage. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to theatre from a very early age and it is a fun family activity. I just can’t wait to take my baby niece to her very first Family Storytime at Scottish Youth Theatre!

*Sophie is a member of SYT's Young Reviewers group. A group of young people who study theatre and they are passionate about performing arts for children and young people. If you want to take part or to find out more, you can email