Image credit: Mark Douet

A voice filters through scenes of grey London. A male’s voice: it’s young, despairing, but also hopeful. The Dissidents is a new play by Shamser Sinha, commissioned by Tricycle Theatre and performed by the Tricycle Young Company, a hub for 11-25 year-olds passionate about theatre and film. The play proposes crucial political issues through the voices of the young people that perform in it. The housing crisis, unemployment and the welfare state are rarely discussed from the point of view of the younger generation- a laughable irony when you consider that it is them who it affects most. This year, Tricycle Theatre is using the medium of the stage to allow its younger members to present these issues.

“Many of the themes running through The Dissidents, are things that not only affect me but other young people who have the power to change or at least challenge what someone else believes is right for their future.” Stevie Basalua, a member of the Tricycle Young Company tells me.

“I certainly feel that being involved with the Tricycle has made me more conscious of the election and how important it is for me to use my vote.”

Tricycle Theatre is using the upcoming elections as a focal point for its annual Takeover. Yearly, the Tricycle Young Company showcase their work through theatre, music, film and poetry by emerging artists. The Dissidents is part of an incredibly diverse range of events, all cultivated in a space that gives priority to the next generation of artists.

This year’s Takeover revolves around the General Election. Nicola Taylor, a Young Company Member explains that this year there are different creatives, a new team to work with, and of course, a new subject matter. Politics is a difficult terrain to express through theatre, but Sinha’s play highlights issues not just for the audience, but also for the Young Company Members themselves.

“Working on a play you put yourself in place of the characters’ story and with it being so political, you engage in a different way, you go deeper”, Taylor elaborates.

The setup of Takeover enables it to be a free space. Creativity and artistic liberation have allowed for exhibitions as distinct as poetry slam workshops and additional performances from National Theatre Connections, to the Tricycle’s work with young refugee and asylum seekers through their project Minding the Gap.

Will Mendelowitz, a Trainee Producer, is working on a cappella singing workshop for Takeover. He tells me: “If I were to change one thing about the country, it would be compulsory a cappella workshops for everyone… no but seriously; I would want more theatre like we have on during Takeover: plays that show the real effect of political decisions on young people, rather than depicting the drama of the decisions themselves.”

Another aspect of Takeover is its practicality, giving guidance and advice for those looking at working in the arts. To this effect, Tricycle Theatre have produced Takeover Hangouts, which allow for discussion and tips from panels of producers, writers and actors including John Hollingworth (Multitudes), Eleanor Lloyd and Daisy Hudson. It is also an active means of learning for those involved, as they are able to express and collaborate whilst adhering to the constraints of organisation.

Rosie, a Takeover 2015 Trainee Producer who has designed a TED-style event titled Takeover Visions elaborates: “So far, the process has taken us from the very beginnings of what it requires to plan a week-long programme like this, all the way through budgeting, setting objectives, programming artists, marketing, and even doing a risk assessment or two”.

For the Young Company themselves? Tricycle Theatre prides itself on being able to engage with its younger members. Takeover week is a crucial part of this. Young Theatre members are expected to produce professional shows, working with a creative team at the top of their game. Taylor tells me “the Tricycle Theatre has been a crucial part of my journey as an actor. You are treated like a professional and people are always available to give advice when needed”.

As the Tricycle Young Company work hard to prepare for the upcoming week, Basalua continues: “I think there should be more government support given to help more Arts establishments deliver what’s on offer at the Tricycle.

“I encourage every young person interested in the arts to get involved. I would say a lot of the content that runs through plays, films or music is a clever and powerful way to get not only young people, but also adults, engaged in the arts.”

Takeover Festival takes place at the Tricycle Theatre 22 March to 29 March. For more information and tickets click here.