Martyn (30) Musician Artist

I think I was one of the early followers of the cult of MNYT. Cult is probably the wrong word, though Fiona ran a tight ship it didn’t stretch to the limits of Charles Manson but MNYT was certainly a way of life.

Diversity and encouraging shy children to come out of their shell was the main focus of Youth Theatre back then (by back then I mean mid to late 90’s). As such there were a lot of acts pulled together to create shows for parents and friends. Youth Theatre took place in the now flattened Park Road School when I started and to embrace the variety of abilities on offer our time was spent doing trust games, Whose Line Is It Anyway style games and interpretative dance to Bjork songs. I do remember my first panto with youth theatre, we performed ahem “performed” an inspired version of the classic, Cinderella. Always keen to involve as many of the kids as possible we managed to include a one off break dance routine to jungle music during the ball scene.

As time went on we moved to the purpose built area at Kensington Road and thanks to Fiona’s hard work the numbers grew and grew and before long there were the junior and the senior groups. Some of us (now seniors) were born actors, singers and dancers Some of us were not, but we joined in none the less. Fiona was always encouraging and tried her damnedest to always bring out the best in us. Sheer grit and determination pulled together a production of The Keepers. The Keepers I feel I should add was a play that made Ben Hur feel like a 5 minute comedic sketch. We performed the play here, we performed it there, no not there, I mean over There, waaaaay over there…. in Essex. Some of the ex members of MNYT may have gone to the NAYT Festival in Epping forest, let me tell you my generation were the first. It was one of my first true experiences of being “one of the thickos from the island.” Due to an unfortunate incident the organisers of the NAYT thought it would be appropriate to introduce “us thickos” to black people. This might seem a tad racist now and let me tell you it was mortifying at the time. To our bemusement the organisers wanted to assure us white kids that not all black kids were thugs, they actually made these poor kids from Essex line up, LINE UP! and shake our hands like we were the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance. A lot of things that happened that weekend; smoking on a petrol station forecourt, cooking a bbq with an open wound with the excuse “blood? don’t worry it will give the vegetarians much needed protein” and of course The Keepers performance itself but I may never forget the looks on those kids faces as though they were doing charity work for the mentally deranged.

I finally left Youth Theatre about 2003, maybe a little before but I’m glad to see it is still going strong ten years later. Fiona has done a tremendous job and dedicated (and I don’t use the word dedicated lightly) her every waking hour to the evaluation of MNYT and the progression of hundreds of kids’ development. On the day she collects her OBE I fully expect her to tap dance down the aisle and give the Queen a full show of Jazz Hands.