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Theatretrain is a Performing Arts organisation founded by teacher/director Kevin Dowsett in 1992. It gives part-time training in drama, dance and singing to children and young people aged between 6 and 18 years of age. Since 1993 it has grown into one of the largest professional performing arts training organisations in the country. There are currently over 70 Centres across the UK and Ireland.
Theatretrain was founded by Kevin Dowsett who spent 14 years as a Head of Drama and GCSE examiner in schools in the West Midlands and London. He went on to become the Theatre Tutor at the ILEA’s Curtain Theatre where he created a variety of theatre training programmes and established the respected Curtain Youth Theatre. Later he taught acting extensively in drama schools including Rose Bruford College, East 15 Acting School, ALRA and the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts where he was Head of Acting. He also taught Advanced Acting Process (a course for professional actors) for 6 years at the City Lit in London.
When his job disappeared in government cutbacks in the early 90s Dowsett used his extensive experience of education and theatre to create a new approach for training young people in the performing arts. He realised that much performing arts training was based on an examination system conducted through classes. He wanted to make it more creative and closer to a theatre experience rather than school. He devised a system that allowed each young person to perform live theatre to the highest possible standard and where possible to incorporate their own ideas.
Almost immediately the company began to expand and franchises were established across the country. Each centre is managed by a Centre Director and a creative team that includes teachers of drama, dance and singing who also have the skills of direction, choreography or musical direction. It was decided early on that prices of classes would be kept at a level affordable by most families. This mixing of backgrounds has had the result in making Theatretrain an eclectic and vibrant company. Qualities that are encouraged include friendliness, imagination, energy, enthusiasm, openness, generosity, commitment and leadership skills. Sound, movement, attitude and storytelling are at the heart of the system, as well as connecting with the audience. There is strong interplay between the three disciplines of the performing arts (act, dance and sing) and skills learnt in one area cross fertilise those in another. Dowsett did this by incorporating the skills of ensemble theatre – in this way Theatretrain is a company rather than just a series of different centres. By coming together annually to perform, friendships are created between pupils and between centres so that they learn from each other. There is a strong sense of camaraderie with the sense of team connecting every teacher, Centre Director and pupil as they learn to be part of something bigger than themselves.
What made Theatretrain distinctive was the performance opportunity given to each pupil. From the beginning Dowsett worked with the Musical Director and Composer Robert Hyman and together they created shows that grew in size with each passing year. Always using live music this partnership created shows that integrated all the performing arts into the performance. Since 1993 thousands of young people have stepped onto the boards of the UK’s most famous theatres including The London Palladium, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the Dominion Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall. Theatretrain has become the UK’s major provider of performing arts training that leads to performance.
In 2009 the artistic team created a mammoth project called “The Long and Winding Road” with 5000 schoolchildren who performed the story of the Beatles at the O2 Arena. The special guest was Bill Bailey. In 2010 another 5000 young people performed “Licence to Thrill” a spectacular spoof of James Bond 007. The special guest this time was Blue Peter’s Andy Akinwolere.
In 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall 1000 Theatretrain pupils created the most ambitious performance to date. “Voices for a Better World” told the story of a tribe who had to go to war to learn the value of peace. On this occasion they were joined by 120 young people from 26 different worldwide countries who were rehearsed in London for 10 days. This performance was the inaugural performance of the World Children’s Theatre Ensemble.
On14th July 2013 3500 pupils and teachers performed a particularly spectacular show 20@O2 at the O2 Arena in London. This 21st birthday show paid tribute to 20 years of unique large scale performance.
Since 1993 Theatretrain has taken work abroad to Festivals and Encounters meeting children and young people from all over the world. Theatretrain has twice represented the UK at the World Festival of Children’s Theatre (1994 and 2007).
Many pupils have gone on to higher education and become professional performers or work in the performing arts industry. The company has a policy of not naming its ex pupils as it believes that every pupil is important and singling out those who made a name for themselves cuts across the strong company ethos of working together and putting the emphasis on the work.
Theatretrain has support from several well-known actors.
|1993||Louder Than Words||Bloomsbury Theatre|
|1994||The Power Of Love||Bloomsbury Theatre|
|1995||Rhythm and Hues||Brentwood Centre|
|1995||From a Distance||Towngate Theatre and Hackney Empire|
|1996||On the Stage||Bloomsbury Theatre|
|1997||The Long and Winding Road||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane|
|1998||Food and Drink||Bloomsbury Theatre|
|1999||Songs of the Century||London Palladium|
|2000||Heroes||Her Majesty's Theatre and Lyceum Theatre|
|2001||Life and Soul! The Game Show!||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Her Majesty's Theatre|
|2001||Calling All Stations||Her Majesty's Theatre|
|2002||Let's Dance||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane|
|2002||Protest||The Old Vic|
|2002||Calling All Stations||Her Majesty's Theatre|
|2003||The Motown Show||Palace Theatre, Manchester, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Dominion Theatre|
|2004||Songs of the Century||Royal Albert Hall|
|2004||The Long and Winding Road||Dominion Theatre and Palace Theatre, Manchester|
|2005||Licence to Thrill||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane|
|2005||Step Into Christmas||Apollo Victoria Theatre|
|2005||Bash The Bard||Her Majesty's Theatre|
|2006||Licence to Thrill||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Palace Theatre, Manchester|
|2006||The Petticoat Rebellion||Shaftesbury Theatre|
|2006||Songs of the Century||Royal Albert Hall|
|2007||Wondrous Stories||London Palladium|
|2007||The Long and Winding Road||Royal Albert Hall|
|2008||Wondrous Stories||London Palladium|
|2008||I Don't Feel Like Dancing!||Royal Albert Hall|
|2009||Rhythm and Blues||London Palladium, Palace Theatre, Manchester and Sadler's Wells Theatre|
|2009||Step Into Christmas||Theatre Royal, Drury Lane|
|2010||Rhythm and Blues||London Palladium and Sadler's Wells Theatre|
|2010||Voices For a Better World performed by the World's Children's Theatre Ensemble||Royal Albert Hall|
|2010||Licence to Thrill||The O2 Arena|
|2011||A Spark to a Flame||Tolpuddle Martyrs festival|
|2011||I Don't Feel Like Dancing!||Royal Albert Hall|
|2012||Now Then||Sadler's Wells Theatre and The Scoop|
|2012||Licence to Thrill||Royal Albert Hall|
|2013||20@O2||The O2 Arena|
|2014||Now Then||The London Palladium|