How do you grab a teenager's attention at the theatre? "Teenagers don't have to trudge along to the theatre as if they are on a school trip any more, they can come to see serious and intelligent theatre of their own accord," says director Paul Miller.
He is directing three plays for teenagers, covering difficult issues such as unwanted pregnancy, but not lasting more than an hour, at the National Theatre in London.
Baby Girl by Roy Williams is about 13-year-old Kelle, who is a virgin until she meets Nathan and gets pregnant. "Roy Williams has taken an unflinching gaze at the issue of sexual relations of teenagers and faced it with a great deal of humour," says Miller. DNA by Dennis Kelly is about a group of teenagers who think they have killed a boy. "It explores the dark side of the group mentality," says Miller.
Finally, The Miracle by Lin Coghlan is about the life of 12-year-old Veronica, whose life changes forever when a holy statue arrives in her bedroom. "The play has an extraordinarily redemptive quality," says Miller. "It looks at a whole community who feel stuck in their lives and shows the possibility for change."
The trio of plays were originally commissioned for the NT Connections programme, which gives performers from schools and colleges all over the UK, aged 11 to 19 years old, the chance to produce and perform in 10 new plays a year. Now a cast of 20 young professional actors will take on the roles to entice more teenagers to the theatre.
"There is definitely a gap in the teenage market. We have many children's and adult's plays – but very few for teenagers," says Miller.
"The great discovery the NT has made since the staging of His Dark Materials in 2004 – and then the trio of productions, also taken from the Connections programme, Burn, Citizenship and Chatroom – is that there is a vast untapped enthusiasm in the older teenager to come and see plays that really nobody had properly produced for before," concludes Miller.
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