In an age of social media, theatre groups are sparse. That’s why we admire Brighton Theatre Group’s ethos and community spirit. We recently had a chat to Keith Shepherd, Chairman of BTG, who spoke about the importance of youth theatre and gave his tips on how to run a successful musical theatre production.
Tell us about your background with Brighton Theatre Group
I first joined BTG as a young child and was eventually passed the role of Chairman of the company, which is where I am now. The whole ethos of the group is like family – I met my wife at BTG in 1992 doing Babes in the Wood. It’s a very social place, built around people with similar interests and goals. Over the years of BTG, many amazing relationships have been formed and are still going strong today. It’s given birth to people who’ve gone on to do great things.
Your current production, Bad Girls, was our ‘Pick of the Week’ last week. How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are well underway! We’re five weeks off and rehearse twice a week, with Sunday as our main rehearsal day. We always start rehearsals as soon as possible, so there’s plenty of time to put that special polish on the production! We’ve also started rehearsing for Fame with our youth theatre group.
Tell us about the audition process for your productions.
We used to be company-exclusive but we changed that, so now hold open auditions. This means that if you want to be a part of our shows, you just pay a small fee. As a group, we’re wholly self-funded, but we try to keep prices as low as possible. It’s only around £3.50 for each rehearsal, which involves drama, dance and vocal training.
What do you think your most successful show has been so far?
Les Miserables with the young theatre group. We had the show at the Corn Exchange and people were queuing at the box office for tickets – we had to turn people away!
At the time, our age range for the youth group went up to 18, so the standard of performers was very high for a youth group. For our current production of Fame we’ve capped it at 17 and some of their vocal ranges have shocked us – we have an extremely talented principal who is just 15/16, who would never have had a chance before if we hadn’t changed the age range. We believe strongly in our young stars; they’re the future, after all!
What would you say is of key importance when it comes to putting on a theatre show?
Musicals are always about singing, dialogue and music, so if you can’t hear it, then you might as well be at a mime! A song to me is dialogue with underscoring; if you can’t hear the lyrics, then you lose half of the story. I always invest in the best sound engineers and equipment. I hire the same guys for every show because I know how good they are.
Aside from that, it’s important to have a good mentality. I think that’s why ICTheatre is great –because of your mindful ethos. Teaching young adults to look after themselves and their bodies is so important when it comes to performing, especially in an environment where there can be more ‘knockbacks’ than ‘successes’.
What do you think encourages this pressure amongst young performers?
I think social media has a massive effect on young people today; positively and negatively!
Brighton has always been a theatrical place, but I think social media has killed off the group aspect for kids around here – not many would go out and join a theatre group. That’s where BTG works – to build a community spirit, to create friends for life, to get people out of the house. We’re a theatre family and being a part of theatre is a life experience.
To round up, tell us about your BTG ethos.
We’re an inclusive community-based company, and our core values surround ‘Theatre’, ‘Music’ and ‘Mentoring’. We pride ourselves in producing quality musical theatre productions heralded as ‘West End Grade’ with ‘Professional Quality Values’.
Find out more about Brighton Theatre Group’s production of Bad Girls here