Perth is full of cultural organisations who have stood the test of time, and none more so that Perth Youth Theatre (PYT) which this week celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a Gala Concert on Thursday 24th November at Perth Concert Hall.
The concert took audiences on a journey through PYT past, present and future, featuring devised performances that include films along with appearances by the new PYT outreach groups from across Perthshire and the unique Perth Autism Youth Theatre. The evening ended in true birthday style with a balloon drop, lots of cake and a party.
PYT is Scotland’s oldest theatre-based Youth Theatre, nurturing young talent since 1966. The 150 current members are looking forward to having their own dedicated rehearsal and workshop spaces plus a brand new performance space when the new Perth Theatre opens in late 2017. For the first time in its history, PYT will have dedicated workshop and rehearsal spaces in Perth Theatre when the restored and redeveloped venue reopens. In addition to the auditorium, there will be a new 200-seat Studio Theatre where groups can perform.
Over the past half century, PYT has trained thousands of young people, many of whom have gone on to work in theatre, television and film, including Colin McCredie, Perth Theatre Ambassador Ewan McGregor and radio presenter Rhod Sharp. Many of the alumni have returned to PYT to work as tutors, directors and young ambassadors.
The Gala Concert was hosted by PYT alumni Colin McCredie, best known for his role as DC Stuart Fraser in the STV drama Taggart. We caught up with Colin for his memories of PYT and thoughts on it’s future.
SCBP: Were you exited to be asked to host the 50th anniversary gala concert?
Very much so. It’s a real honour to be invited back to host the event. My career as an actor goes all the way back to my first drama experiences with Perth Youth Theatre back in the 1980s!
SCBP: What’s your thoughts on the new Perth Theatre (due to reopen in 2017)?
I’ve seen the plans and I was lucky enough to get a look inside recently- it was strange to see it without any seats, and when it’s finished I think it will be a fantastic facility able to rival anything of its kind in Scotland.
SCBP: What’s your memories of PYT?
It fostered my love of theatre and is the sole reason that I am now an actor. I have so many memories and wonderful shows to recall. I joined around 1986 when I was 14 years old. Drama wasn’t something that was done at school then and there weren’t a lot of opportunities.
I’d been a member of the Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) since I was 12, and going along to PYT every Saturday morning was the highlight of my week. Every summer the SYT held a 5 week residential and once year it came to Perth which was incredible- although you couldn’t get up to as much mischief with your parents on the doorstep!
SCBP: How has your experience at PYT benefitted you?
We were lucky to work with great directors- Liz Carruthers and Kenny Alexander when I was there. We learned our craft in workshops which led up to a devised performance- although they weren’t public performances at that time.
The theatre was predominantly girls at that time- in fact I was one of only two boys, the other being a lad from Crieff called Ewan McGregor. Ewan was a year older than me and had left school at 16, so he was able to get jobs helping back of stage, doing things like set building as well as walk on parts.
Acting was still seen as a bit ‘ponsy’ for boys, in part because there was no contemporary Scotland represented in film and TV like there is now with parts played by actors like Ewan and Robert Carlisle.
SCBP: What were the benefits of attending somewhere like PYT?
It was free, gave you confidence to perform, and above all else was loads of fun. If you wanted to pursue it as a career it gave you a foot in the door, but likewise there was no pressure if you preferred to just enjoy it for what it was.
SCBP: Any tips for kids who want to get into acting now?
If you’ve got an interest, pursue it. Have fun, enjoy the social aspect and learn from others in your company. It’s great experience to mix with different people. My own two daughters do a one week course at SYT every year and absoloutely love it. It’s also good to get involved with the charitable aspects of theatres-they original ethos isn’t about profit making. Performance and theatre can benefit people in so many other ways.
SCBP: Do you still get to visit Perth?
We live in Glasgow now but come back when we can. My wife’s hairdresser, Rae Peacock, moved back there to open his salon so we usually make a day of it to tie in with her visiting him. I’m also a big St Johnstone fan so love going to a game as often as I can. We take the kids of Kinnoull Hill and relive all our happy memories.
Details of the PYT 50th Anniversary Gala Concert includng how to book can be found here>>
If you were to imagine the audience for an opera show, we’d place a bet that “babies” wouldn't be your first guess!