A troubled teenager from Croydon has been given a second chance after being cast in a new “street” version of a Shakespearian tragedy.
Ruth Nyanti, 15, got involved a year ago with Intermission Youth Theatre, a company that works with vulnerable young people. She began working with ten others on a new version of Julius Caesar.
The piece, entitled Wasted, is a modern version of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy with updated and adapted language and content. Wasted was devised by the youth theatre company who are performing alongside four professional actors for a four-week run.
Darren Raymond, artistic director of Intermission Theatre, works specifically with young people who have offended or who are at risk of offending. He said of the project: “The process to the final piece is almost more important than the actual performance … we try to engage them with Shakespeare in a way they haven’t been involved before.”
Miss Nyanti, who lives with her foster parents, had been expelled from school and would hang around the streets of south London. She said her participation on the production has given her a new-found respect for Shakespeare: “I used to hate Shakespeare but now I think it’s brilliant. I read Macbeth, and thought it was a great story and I liked Much Ado About Nothing as well.”
Miss Nyanti is now back in school and concentrating on acting. Wasted is set within two rival schools – Jay Caesar leaves one school and starts at the other where the prefect Kassie (Cassius) conspires against him.
“Performing the play gives them the chance to relate the characters to people the group know today,” said Mr Raymond. “I would ask them ‘Do you know anyone with these characteristics?’ and they would say ‘Yeah, he reminds me of a drug dealer from the estate I live on, as he’s full of it.’”
The production plays at the St Saviour’s church in Knightsbridge and runs until 12 December.
Examples of the changed language:
“I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke but here am I to speak what I do know.” Mark Anthony (Julius Caesar, Act 3 scene 2).
“It ain’t no lie that we ‘re dying in our endz but here we are to speak what we do know to keep us alive.” Marc Anthony, Intermission Youth Theatre.