New theatre group launched to nurture talent

Malting Youth Theatre staged a classic musical The Phantom of the Opera for the group's 20th anniversary
Malting Youth Theatre staged a classic musical The Phantom of the Opera for the group's 20th anniversary

A new theatre group is to be set up to help young people in the Berwick area who are aiming for a career in the arts.

Spearheaded by Wendy Payne, who has run the youth theatre groups at the Maltings since it opened 25 years ago, the new group will help budding actors and technicians develop their talents.

The Maltings head of youth drama Wendy Payn

The Maltings head of youth drama Wendy Payn

“We spend all our time building up and nurturing young people but there is a need for a new company for those who may be looking to make the arts their career,” said Maltings artistic director and CEO, Matthew?

“There is a huge strand of talent here and we want to be able to showcase it.”

The Maltings has already taken a step towards this with the development of Here Come the Girls which over the last couple of years has been pulling in the crowds for sell-out shows. Many of the cast have come up through the ranks of the youth theatre and some are professional singers in their own right.

A special production of Here Come the Girls this weekend is one of the ways the Maltings is celebrating its first 25 years along with a concert starring Northumberland performers and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland on April 19.

As with the youth theatres, the producer of Here Come the Girls is Wendy Payne who has seen hundreds of children come up through the ranks since she started at the Maltings when it first opened.

A theatre professional, she had just come back to Berwick when the venue opened and was asked to develop the talent in the area.

Every Saturday between 60 and 100 children attend the junior youth theatre (ages 4-13) while on Thursday nights the 14-25 year- olds attend the youth theatre sessions. Some have gone on into the entertainment business but even those who have not, have found that the skills they have learned have helped them in the careers.

“It builds their confidence up and helps them socially as we have a huge catchment area and have kids from everywhere from Belford to Duns,” said Wendy. “It’s a great outlet for them and its lovely to see them progressing.”

Despite putting in many extra hours with the youth theatres on top of the other work she does at the Maltings, Wendy says she would not have it any other way.

“I never get sick of it. It’s always good fun, always exciting as the kids keep it fresh and there’s always something new. Some of them are really talented.”

Wendy has twice taken performances to the Edinburgh International Festival which were huge operations with many kids being involved.

The new company will be much smaller and more able to tour.

Said Matthew: “One of the special things about the Maltings is the huge amount of talent we have here and we think the new company will be a good way to showcase it.”