FOR the first time, York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre members have devised a site-specific production.

Or two productions, to be more precise, under the banner title of The Crescent, presented at The Crescent community venue, in The Crescent, off Blossom Street, York, on Friday and Saturday.

The former working men’s club, now transformed into a hub of live music and comedy nights, is “an unusual space with lots of stories to tell”, according to the young theatremakers, who spent time there to research those stories.

Two groups, all aged 16-plus, have made two separate shows, Project M with education associate Julian Ollive as director, Project N with youth theatre director Kate Veysey.

After looking around the premises and talking to staff and regulars about their experiences, they have worked in rehearsals with dramaturg Henry Raby, the York performance poet and playwright, to devise scripts inspired by the research and the space.

“Initially we were looking for a venue to do George Orwell’s 1984, which was [cast member] Adam Kane’s idea; Julian and I looked at various spaces and were determined to find the right one,” says Kate. “We went to look at The Crescent, which is such a fascinating space with so many stories to tell, so we decided it would be better to create a project around that space and the pieces evolved from there.”

Julian says: “When you work in a space, you either bring something to that space or you respond to what that space gives you and its history in a story that combines what it was and what it is now.

“We met Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai, who run gigs there, and the captain of the dominoes team, who’s been there for many years and told us about his relationship with the building.

“Working with Henry Raby as the dramaturg has been useful too; he’s been a great resource as he’s put on shows down there too.”

Julian’s cast of 20 will perform in one room, where The Crescent’s shows are staged, whereas Kate’s company of 17 will present a promenade performance around various rooms.

“What’s interesting about this show is doing something we’ve not done before,” says actor Adam Kane, 18. “Instead of a play script, we’re telling stories we haven’t told before, such as stories from mates in bands who’ve played there. With our Tuesday group, we’d go off in smaller groups to create characters and dialogue from that.”

“We also created characters from images in magazines,” recalls actress Laura Kingston, 18.

Kate rejoins: “We put up a big sheet and wrote lots of notes to put on there, with the cast creating scenes from that, and, in the case of Adam, writing scenes at home. Maddie Wood, another cast member, created the character of Janice, the cleaner, who exists in a parallel reality!”

York Press:

York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre 16+ members at The Crescent, York, where they will present the site-specific The Crescent shows

“I’m a bit of a control freak and I remember at the first session trying to work out the whole thing for our piece, but then realising that left no wriggle room to fit other things in,” says Adam.

“We had to work out how things could be linked together from our initial characters,” says Lauren.

“It helps that everyone knows each other well already, so everyone is up for doing anything,” says Adam.

Whereas Kate’s piece is character driven, Julian’s show has “a completely different style”. “We look more at the themes of The Crescent: the space, the community, the music,” he says. “So a lot of what I asked the group to do was to look at this from their own experiences and their connections with it.

“Such as starting with a piece of music, and thinking about their connection with it or why a place is important to them.

“Our group is 85 per cent female, so I didn’t want to make a piece about working men in their 40s, 50s and 60s, as we don’t have people to represent that.

“But in the 1970s, women started pushing for full membership at the club, when they could always come in but had no say, and had to be signed in, so we have four scenes from different decades as they try to go further along the process, though it took until 2007 for them to gain full membership.”

Cast member Stan Gaskell, 17, says: “I think it’s important to show both the good things and the bad things about a place and how it has changed.”

Julian rejoins: “Normally, the actors play characters with a back story, but here they play themselves, with no costumes, stepping in and out of roles, which is a new challenge for a lot of them.”

“It’s very different to anything we’ve done before, as it’s a much more personal piece,” says actress Hannah Brown, 18. “We tell stories we believe in, doing scenes based around the building, the community aspect of the building and what the building stands for.”

On January 18 and 19, Project M can be seen at 7pm, Project N at 8.15pm and 9.15pm, with tickets on sale on 01904 623568 or at