HEROES, Villains and Mortals is a theme covering just about every eventuality as Live’s Youth Theatre prepares to take over the entire Newcastle building and its garden to stage three days of productions from Friday, August 11 to Sunday, August 13.

“We bring a panel of young actors together and they chose themes that they’re interested in. What we do has to be good because we’re using all the stages and it will be good thanks to our fantastic, imaginative and very creative young people,” says Toni McElhatton, who is the venue’s creative associate for children and young people for the Youth Theatre Festival.

Five professional North-East writers have been recruited to turn the actor’s ideas into Plays and Sketches. The writers are Laura Lindow, Lee Mattinson, Zoe Cooper, Steve Byram and Tracy Whitwell who then turn the works over to directors McElhatton, Christina Castling, Jonathan McKee, Rachel Glover and Gary Kitching.

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Theatre makers Katie Weir, from Automatic Theatre, and Tracy Gillman will be working on device Outdoor Performance pieces where 30 young actors will have ten days to make two plays.

Do the professionals bite their lip if their young charges don’t follow normal procedures? “The art of a good theatre-maker working with young people is to act as a dramaturge and be able to support the youngsters to make it. That’s a really particular skill that we ensure comes from the people working with the young people,” says McElhatton.

Youngsters will also get the chance to work with Live’s literary manager Gez Casey and writer in residence Lindsay Rodden to create Plays by Young Writers.

“It’s strictly drama, but if music and dance are elements that come out of it, and the artists working with them make good creative decisions, then there’s no limit in what the youngsters can do. I think there is a little bit or hero and villain in all of us and we’ll be able to explore the complex nature of people. I hope that we see that in all the pieces because it makes for really great drama and makes for a good interrogation of people as a whole. I certainly think we’ll be challenging the stereotypical versions of heroes and villains. I think we’ll be pushing the boundaries,” she says.

The festival recruits from an age range of 11 to 22 with McElhatton keen to offer all of them the chance to work together. “Even with the Stand-up Comedy stage the group will be working collectively but each youngster will deliver their own sketches. What’s really lovely within those free parameters is that 11-year-olds can bring a new dynamic to a session or a play and come at things from a totally different direction to a 22-year-old. When you have them appreciating each other’s ideas, then you get some really interesting work,” she says.

There have already been suggestions regarding gender and identity around how society views the everyday person. “We’ll look at things like how people are put on pedestals. I would say that we’re not biased towards North-East settings, but what we do encourage is for young people to generally devise and make from what they know. What they don’t have time to do is really work on an accent, so they do tend to stick with how they speak,” McElhatton says.

As an incentive to the young theatre-makers, former youth theatre member Joana Geronimo is seeing the fascinating story of her life turned into the play From The Sky To Your Hands, which will run at Live during the week of November 8-11.

“Joana was a youth theatre member here for many years and told part of her story as an asylum seeker and she is now a drama worker and sees things from the other side,” says McElhatton.

Senior associate director Paul James and playwright Juliana Mensah have turned Geronimo’s journey from Angola to the UK with her baby son, Osvaldo, into a theatre project.

Performed by Geronimo, with an appearance by Osvaldo and a Live Youth Theatre Chorus, the tale of parenthood, longing and belonging has been chosen as the theatre’s contribution to Newcastle’s Freedom City Festival. This event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the award of an honorary doctorate by Newcastle University to Martin Luther King.

“I just want to see the voice I have to show the audience that not everything the press says about refugees is true. There is a story behind every refugee. I’m just telling you mine,” says Geronimo.

To book for Live Theatre go to live.org.uk or ring 0191-232-1232