Joshua Tonks - YMT Alumni - Youth Music Theatre UK

An interview with Joshua Tonks


We chat to actor and writer Joshua Tonks about his YMT experience and his favourite shows!

Josh graduated from Arts Ed and has starred as Rolf in The Sound of Music at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park and in The Dreaming at the Union Theatre, as well as in the Alumni Choir at the YMTO Concert last year!

I only did YMT once, but it was a pretty magical experience. I was part of a devised piece called Rare Dreams (2007) directed by Kath Burlinson with original songs by Sonum Batra. The whole experience felt like I was in my own "coming-of-age" film; freeing and fulfilling and great fun!

Do you still keep in contact with any YMTers?

I keep in touch with a handful of YMTers but unfortunately it's rare that we actually meet because everyone is so busy!

Sunny Moodie, Joshua Tonks, Jaygann Ayeh, Gabriel Mokake, YMT Alumni, Youth Music Theatre UK Rare Dreams

(L-R) Sunny Moodie, Joshua Tonks, Jaygann Ayeh and Gabriel Mokake - Rare Dreams, 2007

Why should people get involved with YMT?

YMT can be the perfect opportunity to find your "people". It can be difficult to fit in at school when you like theatre and musicals, but with YMT you are surrounded by people with exactly the same interests as you.

What would your dream role be?

My dream role hasn't been written yet. I'd like to create a role in an original production.

Favourite Shows?

Spring Awakening and Into The Woods are two of my favourites. They are both immensely satisfying to sing and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.

What/who should young people research in the arts?

You should research everything that is to do with your art. Become a font of knowledge; it'll give you a good well of information to draw from.

Favourite food?

Cheese. Any type of cheese.

Ideal holiday?

Skiing in California, or Christmas in New York.

THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

Scone (as in gone)!

Read from YMT Alumni on our blog and check out how you can get involved with YMT.

Youth Music Theatre UK - Entertainment Retailers Association - YMT Blog

An interview with ERA


We chat with one of our generous supporters, the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA)!

ERA is a UK trade organisation formed specifically to act as a forum for the physical and digital retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video and video games industries. ERA members supply the sales data that then supplies the Official Charts Company (music and video charts) and Gfk Chart Track (video games). ERA also provides the organisational force behind Record Store Day UK.

What is your favourite show?

Billy Elliot!

What/who are you listening to at the moment?

The Mystery Jets new album. It's a great comeback record.

Who/what are your favourite bands/singers?

The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys, Maccabees, Leon Bridges, Amy Winehouse - we have loads!

Favourite Food?

Definitely Chocolate Oranges!

Ideal holiday?



THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?


We'd like to say a huge thank you to the ERA for supporting YMT's activities! We really appreciate your help! Also, a big thank you to all our supporters!

Rachel Bird - Youth Music Theatre UK - YMT Alumni

An interview with Rachel Bird


Currently training at Guildford School of Acting, YMT Alumni Rachel Bird chats about her YMT experience.

I've been with YMT since 2005 starting with a Skills Course and then went on to do Last Tango (2006), Great Expectations (2007), Endangered (2008) and then finally Macbeth in (2012) - my last one before I became too old! Each one has been as great as the last if not better each year.

Youth Music Theatre UK - Rachel Bird - YMT Alumni

(Rachel as Hecate in Macbeth, 2012)

Do you still keep in contact with any YMTers?

Yes I still talk to a number of people from Macbeth, Endangered and Great Expectations. But also the creative teams - namely, Stuart Harvey, Rachel Birch-Lawson, Peta Lily, Gerry Flanagan and Annemarie Lewis Thomas.

Why should people get involved with YMT?

It's a company that allows you to be who you are, to be creative by inputting to the project. You can share your own talents and be inspired by others in a comfortable, supportive environment.

What would your dream role be?

My dream role right now would be Molly in Ghost. But when I'm old would be Miss Hannigan in Annie.

Favourite Shows?

Ghost, Dogfight, In the Heights, Loserville, Bring it On: the musical, Next to Normal, Showboat, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun. And so many more...

Tips for YMT Auditions:

Be yourself. That's who they want to see. Try not to present them and idea of what you think the panel want. They want to see your talents and what you can individually do. Also enjoy it. It's workshop based for a reason. So that you can relax and have fun.

What/who should young people research in the arts?

National Theatre Connections plays (it's always young people performing them), Danielle Tarento (a producer of lots of new musicals), Katie Lipson (Aria Entertainment, again lots of new musicals), Benjamin Newsome (Casting Director). Also read the West End Producer's book; it's very good and very funny. If you are someone that is wanting to go and train in Musical Theatre, when you go to see a show always look in the programme at where they have trained because that can always help you with your choice of schools. Look at who went there and what they are doing now.

Favourite food?

Roast Dinner. Preferably Toby Carvery all you can eat.

Ideal holiday?

Somewhere hot with sand and sea. Maybe Bora-Bora but I do love Cyprus.

THE most important question: Scone (as in stone) or Scone (as in gone)?

Scone (gone) for one, scone (stone) for more then one!


Secret Theatre

An interview with Katherine Pearce and Hammed Animashaun


Secret Theatre receives an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England!

(Interview by Sean Brooks)

Originally conceived as a year-long project whilst the multi-million pound redevelopment takes place, the Lyric Hammersmith recently announced its Secret Theatre project is going to be extended for another year to embark on a UK tour!

We spoke to two of the Secret Theatre cast members Katherine Pearce and Hammed Animashaun about their experience of the project and the upcoming tour as well as offering some great advice for all you young people.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into theatre:

KP: Well, from being very little I would perform for anybody that would watch. My mum was really good with stories – she used to put on all the voices – and so I got into amateur dramatics and youth theatre. I took Drama for GCSE and A Level, but it was only when I went to Moscow Arts Theatre on a taster course that I got serious about wanting to go into theatre. I then went to train at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – it took a couple of attempts – and I’ve been pretty lucky to be in work.

HA: I didn’t want to be an actor at all; I wanted to play basketball. I kind of just fell into acting. I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh and being an entertainer – I was the class clown, which the teachers hated! My drama teacher saw something in me and forced me to join Half Moon Young People’s Theatre in Limehouse. A new agency opened up in Hoxton and my drama teacher told me to think about signing up, but I was thinking about going to uni instead. I was studying Philosophy with Drama when my agent called by about an audition for Mogadishu, I got a part and I’ve been working ever since. I had to drop out of uni, but I really wanted to finish and get my degree because that’s important to my mum, so I’ve always said I’ll go back to school. As I’ve been working ever since, I don’t know when I’ll get a chance!

Hammed AnimashaunKat Pearce

What drew you to Secret Theatre?

KP: I’m going to be honest, I didn’t quite know what it was. Sean Holmes (Artistic Director of the Lyric) came to see Port at the National where I had a really tiny part, he had a word with me about doing theatre in a different way and, even though I haven’t been in the industry a long time, it felt really special to me. I did the audition and it was only really when we started that I realised the scale of what we were doing.

HA: Sean and I were doing Cinderella here (the Lyric) and he took me aside and had a chat about the concept of Secret Theatre and he asked if I wanted to be part of it. I researched all the people involved and I was nervous about the whole thing – I hadn’t been to drama school, so I was worried about feeling out of my depth.

KP: It’s just really refreshing to be doing something different. For Show 2, we sat round doing it in the traditional Southern American accent, and it was so boring.

HA: That’s when we started to realise what Secret Theatre was about. We were slipping into the norm and we didn’t want to do that. I think young people really relate to that. What’s great is we’ve noticed a much younger audience, who seem to really enjoy it and respond to it.

How does the creative process work?

KP: Well, we had to see what we were like as a company before deciding on any piece. We played ball games and did different exercises for like a month. It was only after that that we decided what sort of thing we wanted to do – we were constantly generating new material.

HA: Sean told us what he was thinking, but he didn’t tell us the casting. With Show 3, we had no idea what was going to happen. For me, Show 4 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

KP: But even then, with Show 3, parts still got changed. We try not to say ‘no’, which is a really good thing. To have to do something you’re not entirely comfortable or interested in is great for your determination. We’re actually about to work on a scene that’s really difficult, but I’m excited to see how we’re going to make it work. It’s so refreshing.

HA: What’s brilliant about this company is Sean didn’t know all our collective talents. We can all sing and some of us play instruments. He inadvertently brought together a really talented group of people; it kind of just happened.

KP: Hammed is a great steel drummer! I don’t think it’s not a coincidence that Hammed is a great drummer and musician as well as great coming timing. They complement each other. 

Kat Pearce

Do you think it helps being an ensemble?

KP: Absolutely, Show 4 is a different show every time we do it as there are things that are constantly changed. We know enough about each other to be comfortable and whatever I do; I know others would be able to cope.

HA: It definitely keeps you on your feet. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. What’s great is normally in this industry, I would never get cast in a role like this. I had to really dig deep.

What do you think are the obstacles in the industry?

HA: It’s really easy to get typecast.

KP: The only similarity between me and Marilyn Monroe (who my character is based on) is that we’re blonde. We’re about to do a scene that we’d normally never get cast in, so it’s really exciting. It’s important because this story happens all over the world, not just to one type of person. Why does Juliet have to be the same every time? She’s always a pretty waif of a girl, which is fine, but it’s not relatable. Why can’t we have some alternatives? Let’s take James Bond, Daniel Craig isn’t the tall, dark and handsome of the previous Bonds and it kind of broke the mould.

HA: It’s frustrating for actors. I’m always cast as a big, clumsy guy and whilst I do enjoy doing that, my role in Show 4 is so different. I think there are no small parts only small actors. It’s about taking small parts and turning them into something huge and with Show 4, I’m able to sink my teeth into it. 

What advice do you have for our young people?

HA: Stay positive. Stay on top of your craft. What’s amazing about this generation of young people is it’s getting bigger and bigger and there’s so much talent. Unfortunately there just aren’t enough jobs, so you need to stay positive. The calls aren’t always going to be coming in but don’t let that beat you. Stay positive, stay true to yourself. For any young actors out there, don’t let typecasting beat you. Keep pushing. Don’t let the industry beat you. It’s a great industry but there are flaws. You need to be able to take rejection. You need to be resilient. I did the whole community theatre thing, I didn’t train and I’m really pleased I did that. There’re some great actors, particularly young people, who are pushing. That’s the only way you can break it. If you want it, keep pushing.

KP: Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for the money or the fame.

HA: Definitely not the money!

KP: I had a whole summer of going for one line in Holby, one line in Being Human and I wasn’t getting them. You can create your work. Reading keeps your creativity going. There aren’t enough jobs so the only the way artists can survive is to create your own work.

HA: I’ve been with Metronomes Steel Orchestra for almost six years, and we play at Notting Hill Carnival, and that keeps my mind busy. Not only as a musician; it allows me to think about other things. You’re always going to have nerves, it’s all about how you control them. I’m nervous every night! Don’t let nerves beat you.

Thank you so much to Kat and Hammed for chatting with us! We wish you the best of luck with Show 5 and the upcoming tour – we can’t wait to see more!



100 Great Plays For Women Lucy Kerbel

An interview with Lucy Kerbel (Special Offer)


We spoke to theatre director Lucy Kerbel about her brilliant new book 100 Great Plays for Women.

Women buy the majority of theatre tickets, make up half the acting profession, and are often the largest cohort of any youth theatre or drama club – yet they have traditionally been underrepresented on stage. 100 Great Plays for Women seeks to address this gap by celebrating the wealth of drama available for women to perform.

Lucy is the Director of Tonic Theatre – created in 2011 as a way of supporting greater gender equality within the theatre industry. 100 Great Plays for Women is an absolutely fantastic, and sadly necessary, read for anyone interested in theatre and performance. Lucy’s list includes classics such as Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler as well as some masterpieces from the likes of Sarah Kane, Tracy Letts and April De Angelis.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into theatre.

I went to the Brit School in Croydon when I was 16, which was a really amazing experience. It meant that I was able to work on theatre productions rather than just studying drama from an academic perspective. I did a vocational course in stage management, technical theatre, and set and costume. I thought I wanted to be a costume designer, but that was because I loved art and drama and that was the only way I could see the two connecting. I didn’t really realise there was such a thing as ‘directing’. I then went to Royal Holloway where I got a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies – I also got a First! I went to university as an opportunity to be close to London I was able to do some directing so when I finished my degree I had some directing experience under my belt.

When did you notice a gender inequality in the theatre industry?

I think I’ve always been a little aware. I remember being back in primary school and I got really cross at the Christmas show because there was only one role for girls and all the other roles were for boys. I remember complaining to the teachers, telling them it wasn’t fair. With the industry, I’d look at who was on stage, who was directing at the big theatres, whose plays were being performed. Coming out of university I was aware of it but I was reconciled to it at the same time. I found it disappointing, but I thought that’s just how it was. I didn’t really think about changing it or whether there was any space to change it. At the time, when I was 21, I just assumed that the problems would be sorted out. But, ten years down the line the problems still exist so there needs to be some sort of intervention. A catalyst. There is progress happening, but it’s happening at an incredibly slow pace.

How did you begin the research for the book?

There wasn’t really any structure. I point out in the introduction of the book that it’s certainly not a definitive work. The plays I’ve included are 100 plays that I really like and they encompass a range of genres and periods. I set myself a task: if I find a play that has more women in it than men then I have to read it. I looked all over the place. I started the research in the National Theatre’s script library, where there are walls and walls of plays! I used libraries in drama schools and universities. I spoke to a load of directors and literary managers and actors and writers, explaining what the project was and they were eager to help. I was based in New York for a while too, so I went to the New York Performing Arts Library, which brought up a few US plays from writers that we don’t really know about here in the UK.

Was there a definitive moment when you realised this book needed to be written?

The idea to make it into a book was made by Purni Morell, who used to run the National Theatre Studios and is now Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre – she was head of the NT studio when I approached them about ideas for mainly female casts. I thought we would create an online database or maybe a list that we’d give out to theatres. The idea came about mainly for Youth Theatres and drama teachers in schools. These places tend to be very female heavy in terms of participation and there’s a lack of awareness for suitable plays to perform and study. I like the idea of the permanence of a book and making it accessible for more people. It soon became clear that there’s loads of material out there and a simple list wouldn’t do.

What do you think the issue is in regards to plays with female casts not getting performed?

I think it’s a range of things. The canon of work we currently have is very male-based. It’s very white and middle class. We have a situation at the moment where if you look at what we as a society consider ‘great art’ – the works in our big institutions like the National Gallery, National Theatre or the Royal Opera House – more often than not, the people getting their work displayed are white, able-bodied, middle-class men. The majority of people in this country do not fit that profile yet we have this perception of what ‘greatness’ is. It’s starting to break down, but it’s taking the Arts time to catch up. I think it’s partly about our canon, the plays we study at school, the plays we’re encouraged to see at school or perform at school. Also, there has traditionally been nervousness about putting women’s stories on show. There’s a fear that they won’t sell tickets but I hope this is changing. I think that TV drama is leading the way particularly in the last couple of years. There has been an explosion of high-quality dramas that put female stories centre stage – whether that’s The Killing, The Hour, Homeland, Silk, even Scott & Bailey. These are shows that are very popular with huge ratings. I just hope Theatre can catch up.

Interestingly, we did a platform at the National Theatre last week for the book that completely sold out. So for me, that was important because it shows that there is definitely an audience out there for work about women.

What do you think the next step would be for achieving gender equality, particularly in relation to youth theatre?

I think there’s a real need for there to be an equal level of opportunity. Tonic Theatre did a huge research project on it last year. We found that a lot of boys participating in youth theatre are afraid of bullying – schools aren’t always supportive of boys doing performing arts. This is such a shame, as a lot of talented boys are not feeling able to take part. There’s a real responsibility on behalf on Youth Theatre to ensure that girls are given just as much opportunity and it’s not taken for granted that girls will just cheerfully get on with things. When I was doing the research we did focus groups with sets of boys and sets of girls. I asked the boys what would happen if they wouldn’t get a part they wanted and they were really proactive about it. If they didn’t get the role they would ask the director why they were unsuccessful or even leave the company! It was as if there was a sense of entitlement. I’d ask the girls the same question and what was interesting was that girls would all agree and say, ‘You have to be grateful, even if you’ve only got one line’. There was such a marked difference between expectations of what they deserved and what they’re entitled to. The girls felt entitled to pick the crumbs up on the floor. There’s a real disparity there. It’s a cause for concern for all young people, not just for those who want a career in the Performing Arts. It may play a part in other areas of life, be it in a job interview or in a relationship. If you’re expecting a lot and you feel you deserve a lot then it affects your thought process.

What advice would you give to our young people about getting into the industry?

Try to find your own route through. There will be a lot of people trying to change your mind about the type of work you should be doing. But if there’s work that you want to make then you should make it. If you want to work somewhere, then work there. It’s finding your own structures and pathways. In many respects, like the rest of society, we’re on the cusp of real change. The way we’ve been working perhaps won’t be that way for much longer. There’s real space for pioneers. If you got good ideas about how you want to make your work, go ahead and do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one way of doing things.

And finally, what’s your favourite musical?


We want to say a huge thank you to Lucy for talking with us and we wish her the best of luck with her brilliant book!

100 Great Plays for Women is published by Nick Hern Books and available to buy now! For a limited time YMTers can get 25% off their purchase when using the voucher code ‘YMT25%OFFER’ in the checkout box. Offer is valid until 31 December, 2013. Go to