How Leicester's Curve theatre is helping make dreams a reality
DESPITE its critics, few could disagree that the Curve theatre has brought a unique quality to Leicester.
The building's magnificence hits you between the eyes as you turn the corner from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Yet it is more than just a great building.
Scratch beneath the surface and you find not only does it regularly attract big name stars, it is also providing a unique opportunity to the city's young people.
Each year 150 youngsters are chosen to become part of the Curve's Young Company.
As members they are given a platform from which to follow their dreams learning about theatre, performance and the arts.
Aged between 13 and 26, each member has been selected from over 400 applicants for their talent, focus and commitment.
Many may well go on to audition for places at some of the best theatre schools in London such as RADA and Central, but others will use their experiences to go forward in life and follow their ambitions.
Jo Hart, a media lecturer at De Montfort university, has two sons, the eldest of which is a member of the Curve Young Company.
She said: "I haven't got enough good things to say about the Curve. There is something that they do there that's really relaxed but gets the best out of
everyone. And there's something about the building - there's always a good feeling in there.
"We have been involved in amateur dramatics and it can sometimes get a little tense. The Curve is so professional and my children love it."
Jo's two sons Isaac (13) and Albert (11) have both performed in productions at the theatre.
Most recently the boys performed in Oliver.
Jo, from Broughton Astley said: "My kids don't ever say they want to do it professionally. But they really enjoy the workshops where they learn about things like characterisation. You see how confident they are now and they are benefitting from that in all aspects of their lives. They just love it and it's a sheer joy to watch. In primary school Isaac hated English, but now he's doing really well and I think it's because the stuff he does with the Curve has helped him to understand so much more."
Now in its second year the company is run by the theatre's associate director, Tim Ford.
He said: "It's about connecting people up within the community. There are so many levels at the Young Company, but it's about investing in young people and nurturing talent, along with offering them all the benefits of being around people involved with a professional theatre company."
Tim joined the theatre as associate producer last year and is now associate director.
He is so dedicated to the company that he regularly runs marathons to raise funds to finance bursary places.
And he added: "There is a young person here who has had problems at home. She's okay, but she lives alone. This is like a family to her and it's something for her to do. The theatre school is really important to people for all sorts of reasons."
The theatre school takes in new members every year, starting in September.
Tim said: "We spread the word by keeping up to date with all avenues of social media. And we communicate with young people through Facebook, Twitter and such places. We also find word of mouth very effective and we have been visiting schools to talk about what we do."
The Young Company has a weekly timetable of programmes all tailored to suit a certain area of interest.
On Monday the Curve Musical Theatre group runs from 6pm to 9pm.
This is a group that focuses on exploring musicals and musical theatre practices.
Tuesdays are Curve Physical from 5pm to 7pm.
This group is all about the development of theatre skills and techniques and the work of different theatre practitioners.
Wednesday is Curve Text, from 7.30pm - 9.30pm which works on plays and text. Here members learn the process of how an actor approaches a text and how to bring a text to life.
And a drama drop-in is also held from 5pm to 6.30pm. These sessions take place every two weeks and are open to everybody.
They are aimed at young people wanting to try drama for the first time or for those wanting to learn more about the Young Company.
Thursday is Curve Dance, focusing on modern dance, from 7pm – 8.30pm.
At the start of the new year organisers are planning on forming a young facilitators, young technicians and young marketing group, which will focus on working behind the scenes at the Young Company's summer term productions.
Tim said: "Engaging young people in theatre means that they will hopefully become life-long lovers of the theatre. We have a lot of talented young people here and it's only a matter of time before one of them hits the big time."
And he added: "If it was up to me every young person would get some sort of education in the arts. Leicester is such a fantastic place to discover the arts.
Now it's just about getting the word out about the great things that are happening here. As well as the Young Company there are so many exciting things happening in Leicester."
It costs £40 a term to be in the Curve Young Company and there are bursary schemes available for those on benefits or from families with low incomes.
This means that money is no barrier to talented young stars finding a platform on which to shine.
To find out more about auditions for the Young Company or future productions visit the Curve website at www.curveonline.co.uk