YP Letters: Such an opportunity for young theatre lovers in Steel City

Plays at the Crucible Theatre are highly recommended by aspiring producer Ben Oliver.
Plays at the Crucible Theatre are highly recommended by aspiring producer Ben Oliver.
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From: Ben Oliver, Fulwood, Sheffield.

I’M 17 years old and I am currently studying my A-levels at Birkdale School, Sheffield, with an extreme passion for theatre and performance, with the hope of becoming a professional theatre director. Whenever I asked any professionals in the business what advice they would give me they said ‘Go and see as much theatre as you can’. So that’s what I did.

At the end of last year I challenged myself to go and see 40 performances. This year I have seen some of the most remarkable pieces of theatre that I have ever experienced. In January, after encouragement from my drama teacher, I bought a ticket to go and see Sheffield-based theatre group Third Angel’s performance of Partus. This verbatim piece focussed on stories of child birth. It was an immersive and visually exciting experience and was something that I had never witnessed before.

During this year I have travelled to The Lowry in Manchester, the National Theatre and the West End to watch theatre but I can honestly say that none of these experiences, despite the fact that they were all so good, has given me so much pleasure as the theatre I have witnessed at Sheffield Theatres.

Watching immense and spectacular theatre being made and performed in the heart of my city is very special. For me, the Crucible Studio has been the home of some of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year. This underrated black-box space is incredibly versatile and I’ve seen the space be adapted to numerous different productions this year. Highlights include Partus, as mentioned above, Iphigenia in Splott, a superb retelling of a classical character set in the backdrop of austerity and cuts, plus an emotional and heartfelt new play entitled Cuttin’ It, created by the Young Vic, about the devastating truths of FGM in Britain.

Also, during this play I have never sat in a more diverse audience that really represented the people of our city; I truly felt that Sheffield (along with the Young Vic and the other venues that were hosting the performance) was holding up a beacon for what theatre, often perceived as a very white, middle-class activity, needs to become in order to survive.

Whilst you may be thinking that this year has cost me an arm and a leg, I can happily confirm that through Sheffield Theatre’s Live for 5 scheme, I have seen almost every production this year for only £5. Available to 16 to 26-year-olds, this is an amazing opportunity and I would encourage every young person to get out and support their amazing local theatre.