The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced new programmes to tackle the widening barrier between young people and the stage.
Its New Generation project aims to invite children from disadvantaged backgrounds across the country to take part in all elements of theatre, from directing to being in the spotlight themselves.
According to the company’s deputy director Erica Whyman: “It has got harder and harder for people who demonstrate passion for theatre at an early age to find pathways into a career in the arts.”
And “harder for the grown ups in their lives to know what to offer them”, she added.
A new “strand” of the project, launching this year, will see the company work with school students particularly keen to get a foot in the door of directing.
Commenting on the importance of nurturing “diversity” in the “next generation of directors”, Erica said: “Often these young people decide to let other people become directors because they are the ones who are in charge.
“It’s important that we get in there early and offer them the possibility of leading organisations and producing.”
Erica added that the New Generation scheme would also continue to invite students to experience all backstage roles involved in professional theatre, while visiting schools to offer acting programmes and opportunities.
“I am thrilled that we are making it very clear how much we care about investing in our young people,” she said.
“We have seen up close the extraordinary potential of young people, their energy and passions.
“Every school in that project has multiple challenges and we seek out places where their opportunity to experience different cultures is minimal – it might not happen without us.”
Her comments came as the company revealed its plans for the 2017 winter season at a conference in central London.
In June it will bring its Stratford-upon-Avon production of Queen Anne to the West End for three months, introducing Suffragette star Romola Garai in the role of the Duchess of Marlborough.
Other upcoming shows across London and Stratford-upon-Avon theatres include Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra in March, Titus Andronicus and The Tempest in July, Dido: Queen Of Carthage and Coriolanus in September, Twelfth Night in November, and Imperium: The Cicero Plays and a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol from December.