We spoke to Brian Edgar to find out where the CatStrand Youth Players all began!
The CatStrand Youth Players began in 2008, not long after CatStrand first opened. Prior to its official beginning, Brian Edgar had been involved with the Glenkens 73 Club since it was first formed in 1973. He initially started onstage, playing various roles in pantomime for a long time, before eventually progressing into directing plays for drama festivals.
When CatStrand opened its doors, the adult aspect of the Glenkens 73 Club had fallen slightly wayside, with less older people interested and more and more young people excited to become involved. As they found themselves more concentrated on the youths, they became newly known as the CatStrand Youth Players, and Brian has been directing them ever since. The Youth Players now has an average of 18 active members as a time, with well over 200 young people having been involved over the last 17 years.
Many of the youth players stay from the age of ten, right through to eighteen-years-old, with some continuing on to enter the adult drama festival or study drama at college. Some former members have even become professional actors, and others have gone on to explore different areas of theatre, such as dance.
Brian said, “There’s a sense of pride from doing it all this time, to see former members making a living on stage in various forms.”
One of the Youth Players’ biggest national successes on paper is undoubtedly making it to the Scottish final last year and finishing second place, but the annual pantomime at CatStrand has also been a huge success, which has just completed its 12th year. Always a sell-out popular with audiences, Brian notes that it’s also been a great opportunity for young people to get involved behind the scenes in props and set design. It has allowed young people interested in drama who don’t want to be onstage to get involved in different aspects of theatre. Moreover, seeing young people who have started off shy grow in confidence and become much more outgoing means a lot.
We then spoke to James Wallace, a Youth Players member who ventured into directing with the 2022 pantomime, 'Sinbad Sails Again'
James joined Youth Players in 2018, at 17 years old. He admitted that he’d known about it beforehand but wasn’t particularly interested. Yet one day, whilst working in the CatStrand Café, he was approached by Zoe Kirkpatrick who used to be in charge of the Youth Players. She asked him if he would be interested in doing the pantomime with them, and so he decided to give it a go, playing the Baron in Cinderella. After the pantomime, the One Act Play Festival was coming next in 2019. James had never heard of it and it was Zoe again who asked if he’d be interested in acting in their play ‘The Dust on the Street’.
‘I think that’s where I got the taste for it, after doing that festival, because we became runners up in the youth competition that year, and I’ve been doing it ever since ’.
Why did you start directing, instead of just performing?
It all happened just after the 2021 panto, which we did here (at CatStrand). We had a lot of youths, but not a lot of adults – I was the only other adult involved at the time. I went along to one of the drama meetings and when suggesting a play, Brian said to me out of nowhere, "I think you’d be good at directing it", so he gave me that chance and I just went for it.
What was your first experience of directing like?
Stressful. Really stressful. I don’t know how Brian, Cat, or Zoe do it. They made it look so easy - I know now from experience it is not. I just remember I was more terrified at the start than the actors were. But, after the first two nervous rehearsals it all fell into place. It came with bumps but it was all really enjoyable.
What did you find most challenging?
You’re in charge. That weight on your shoulders, that this is all on you. I like to think I’m quite creative and imaginative but knowing you’re going to get judged for your creative decisions is, quite a daunting thought, but I had the help of Brian to get used to that. Nothing was a massive challenge, of course there was barriers but there was nothing major.
What did you learn the most?
I think I leaned how fun it was. I could see why Brian keeps doing it – that’s what drew me in in the first place. It’s all good fun; it takes you away from the ugly world out there for a wee while. I’d like to thank Brian and Zoe, because I wouldn’t have done any of it without them. I’m very grateful they gave me the chance and I am looking forward to seeing the future of CatStrand Youth Players.
Scottish Drama Festival
The CatStrand Players will be entering this years one act drama festival with three plays; Youth Plays 'Rabbit' by David Foxton and 'Tell Me Another Story, Sing Me A Song' by jean Lenox Toddie which they will perform at the Fullerton theatre on Thursday 2nd March and one adult play 'Feeding the Ducks' by Michael Park which will be performed on Friday 3rd March.
The CatStrand Players will also be showcasing their plays at the CatStrand on Friday 10th March at 7.30pm. Tickets for the CatStrand performance 'An Evening of Plays' can be booked via this link.