Major new documentary to shine a spotlight on Belgrade’s Pioneering Youth Drama Programme

Posted on 2 November 2015

A major new documentary following the lives of nine Coventry teenagers filmed on location at the Belgrade Theatre will be aired on Monday 9th November at 7.30pm on BBC One in the West Midlands region as part of a season of programmes celebrating British Theatre across the UK, it was announced today.

The documentary, which forms part of a season of programmes running across television, radio and online, will seek to shine a spotlight on the work of Acting Out, the Belgrade Theatre’s pioneering work-related learning programme which works with young people who are not achieving their full potential within the mainstream education system.

The one-off, half hour special will see TV impressionist, actor and stand-up comic Alistair McGowan follow the 2015 Acting Out class on their journey towards bringing a fully-realised theatre production to the stage.

The documentary will follow the 2013-15 Acting Out cohort in rehearsal for their final performance module, based around a performance of Nell Leyshon’s The Beauty Manifesto.

The current Acting Out group, which comprises nine students meets weekly at the Belgrade Theatre and is co-ordinated by the Belgrade’s Community and Education Department which, this year, is marking 50 years since the invention of Theatre in Education in Coventry in 1965. Building upon that legacy, Acting Out was first introduced to the theatre in 1996 and remains at the heart of the Belgrade’s artistic and socio-political vision. But for how long? In an age of austerity which questions why and how every penny of the public purse is spent, this brand new documentary by Stratford-based media production company First Look TV asks the question, what does the future hold for schemes like Acting Out and, more importantly, why should we care?

The one-off documentary will be aired on BBC One aired in the West Midlands region on BBC One as one of a series of eleven 1/2 hour documentaries examining the day-to-day activities and challenges faced by regional theatres across the UK.

Craig Henderson, Executive Editor BBC English Regions who commissioned the series says: “The films take an in depth look at the venues which play such a vital role in our communities and which rarely have the chance to step into the spotlight themselves. We wanted to follow the ups and downs of theatre life, hear their concerns for the future and ask questions of the people in power.”

BBC On Stage is a season of programming across the BBC that celebrates all of Britain’s incredible theatre talent, from world-class actors to cutting-edge regional theatre. With filmed theatre productions, specially created performances for television, drama, documentaries, online and radio content, On Stage will put the country’s theatre into the spotlight.

Acting Out takes referrals from schools across Coventry. Crucially, the programme provides students with an opportunity to study for a BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate in Performing Arts, a qualification which is equivalent to at least two GCSEs. Students also have the opportunity to continue their work with the Theatre through the graduate company Acting Up, which offers them the opportunity to continue to meet each other and develop their theatre arts skills in a supported context through workshops and new productions.

The project has been rolled out very successfully in both Cardiff and Birmingham, and has twice been cited as a model of best practice in the Government White Paper on 14-19 Education and Skills, keeping the Belgrade Theatre firmly at the forefront of pioneering community arts work.

‘’The types of students involved in Acting Out come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some have specific learning needs, others behavioural. For some of the students that are referred to us, this is their only opportunity to gain a recognised qualification. For others who’ve been thrown multiple hurdles at a very young age, Acting Out is that one place where they can feel assured that they won’t be let down, where they can feel a sense of safety and be guaranteed stability. Many of our past Acting Out students have gone on to develop careers in the creative industries. As well as developing confidence and pride in their work, participants learn to channel their energies in a more positive direction, often changing their lives for the better in the process’’.

Claire Simpson, General Manager

During November 2015, the BBC will be celebrating British Theatre via a range of special programmes running across television, radio and online. The centre piece of the On Stage season, is a new production of Ronald Hardwood’s The Dresser starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins, directed by Richard Eyre on BBC Two. BBC One will feature two episodes of Imagine, including ‘The art of being an actor’. BBC four has a night of short form drama which will be performed at television centre (the first to come from there since it was decommissioned in 2013). Meanwhile, Radio Four launches a series on the story of black British theatre presented by Lenny Henry. In the BBC English regions there will be eleven half hour documentaries following a theatre in each region as they take in the ups and downs of production on Monday 9 November at 7.30pm on BBC One.