Edinburgh Youth Theatre (EYT), under the artistic directorship of Shauna Macdonald, has built a thriving community of young people gaining confidence and learning life skills through drama classes and training in all aspects of performance from acting to design to film production. Like so many parts of the arts, the EYT weekly classes, held at Bellfield, Portobello for 3–18 year olds, had to be cancelled because of Covid. Like everyone else, participants and staff were devastated.
Shauna and her team reimagined their classes for an online format providing regular drama exercises for participants with ‘70 films for lockdown’ plus regular weekly classes via Zoom. This included a Master Class from script writer Douglas Maxwell with participants tuning in from across Europe.
But many parents were unable to commit to funding a child attending classes even although the Company remained committed to its Pay What You Can Scheme to ensure accessibility for all, so EYT’s income was inevitably greatly reduced. It was therefore a tremendous relief to Shauna and her team when their patron, Glasgow international star of stage and screen, James McAvoy, made a generous donation to the EYT Pay What You Can Scheme in the form of The James McAvoy Bursary. This generosity will allow many young people in Scotland access to EYT’s online 8-week term this autumn until Bellfield opens in October.
The term will include EYT’s first ever weekly film class run by Shauna and film maker Paul Barrie, along with more Master Classes with well-known actors such as Jack Lowden, Kate Dickie and Moyo Akandé; director Philip John; writers Stef Smith and Jenni Fagan and writers and actors Robert Florence and Iain Connell as well as international casting director Simone Pereira-Hind. A return from John McPhail is already confirmed.
James McAvoy said, “Youth theatre was the spark that ignited a passion for drama in me, and as well as being the place I met Shauna it helped build in me a confidence that many children from low income household lack. So many aspects of the performance industry and arts education already feel like the preserve of the privileged so I believe it is vital that enriching learning opportunities like Edinburgh Youth Theatre should be accessible to all.”
The donation means Edinburgh Youth Theatre can now offer The James McAvoy Bursary as the leading branch of their Pay What You Can Scheme. Any potential or current student facing financial hardship will be able to access this bursary scheme to reduce their fees to an amount manageable for their family. This commitment reflects McAvoy’s strong belief that drama should be open to all, whatever their financial circumstances. Shauna and James met when they both attended Paisley Youth Theatre as teenagers and have remained friends ever since. They share the same professional agent and appeared as husband and wife in the 2013 film Filth, for which James won an Empire and BIFA award for Best Actor.
Visit the EYT website to book for Take – ACTION! or to donate.