A new production called Rise is taking to the B2 stage at the Belgrade Theatre this March, performed by some of the Midlands brightest young female talent and directed by Associate Director, Justine Themen. Aged from 9 to 25, the all-female cast form the Belgrade’s Young Company, comprised of some of the most promising members from across the theatre’s youth groups.

Created by the Young Company in collaboration with wordsmith Liz Mytton, Rise will explore what it’s like to be a young woman growing up in the 21st century. The show will look at how girls are defying the rules. Making waves. Shining bright. They can be anything they want to be. Can’t they?

Frustrated by their experiences of everyday sexism, a group of young women hijack a van and go on a road trip to seek solace from their pop idol, the Queen Bey. But things don't work out quite as planned, and the young women have to look elsewhere to find a way forward in their own lives. 

Director Justine Themen said “The idea for the show came from a sense of the power of young women today, a desire to celebrate their vibrancy and diversity. As we worked, however, there was an increasing sense of the very real challenges that young women continue to face, despite it being almost 100 years since women got the vote. Indeed, we started to wonder whether it is the very progress that the gender equality movement has made over the last century that risks masking the ongoing challenges for young women - such as how sexual harassment and gender norming work against them fulfilling their potential and impact their day-to-day lives. Rise is a call to action from a group of 10 young women, challenging all of us to think of our own role in perpetuating damaging gender stereotypes, stereotypes that hold us all back, men and women alike.”

The production will reunite the creative team behind Red Snapper, which waswritten by Liz Mytton and directed by Justine Themen, with set design by Janet Vaughan and dramaturgy by Ola Animashawun. Red Snapper followed the lives of five women and their husbands at the time of Jamaican independence with an all-female cast led by BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee, Cathy Tyson. It was the first full professional production to be born of out the theatre’s Critical Mass programme; a 10 week playwriting course aimed at aspiring writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and went on to be nominated for the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year in 2016.

The company will also be working with Movement Director Martin Hylton, Artistic Director of the Gateway Studio Project and Freelance Choreographer, and Vocal Director Una May Olomolaiye, who has worked alongside some of Britain’s top jazz musicians and performed internationally with the female acapella group Black Voices.

Rise follows in the footsteps of the Belgrade Young Company’s successful production of The Tempest in 2014, which saw a fast-paced and physical interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

The Belgrade Theatre has a strong history of Youth Theatre, with the first groups being set up by the Theatre in Education Company as part of their service for young people in the 1960s. This year, the Belgrade Community & Education company celebrates the 50th anniversary since its youth theatre groups were established.

The theatre currently runs several in-house and outreach youth theatre projects alongside the Belgrade Young Company which was established to provide young people with the opportunity to experience projects more closely mirroring the environment of a professional rehearsal and production process.

Rise will run in at the Belgrade Theatre from Mon 13 to Sat 18 March. Tickets are free but with a request for donations to support the work of the Belgrade Community & Education Company.