The Corn Exchange Youth Project started providing drama workshops in September 2011 for P6 to S2 pupils. 12 young people attended one-off workshops. This core group then formed a regular weekly workshop which grew to accommodate 25 participants.
The group was initially set up with the help of Kenny Douglas. Leah Moorhouse ran a series of workshops with the assistance of her students and led a two-day open workshop in the Summer of 2012.
In the summer of 2013, the Corn Exchange Youth Project ran an intensive three-day project entitled A Play in Three Days. The performance was directed by Clare Prenton, with music provided by Georgia Gordon.
In August 2013, when Kenny emigrated to Australia, Jen Hodson took over as Programme Co-ordinator and Group Leader. Rebranded as Corn Exchange Young Performers, Jen expanded CXYP’s operations to include a drama workshop specifically tailored for Nursery – Primary 3 pupils. Her P4-7 and High School groups later went on to perform two original shows in March 2014. Disaster adventure Zombie Apocolypse and the mysterious thriller, The Island became CXYP’s first full-scale productions.
Sam Swinton joined CXYP in April 2014 to work in partnership with Jen. In August 2014, Sam took over as Programme Co-ordinator and Group Leader. By now, CXYP was providing workshops for nearly 60 participants. The Nursery-P3 group had become large enough to perform a show of their own and the decision was taken to commission three original productions for mid 2015.
The Ladybugs’ Adventure became the P1-3 group’s first production. The Buccaneers of Muck, a swashbuckling pirate adventure play, cemented the P4-7 group’s reputation as a large and fiercely talented drama group. Meanwhile, Passed On became the senior group’s third original drama.
2015 also marked the beginning of a new annual summer event: Three Plays in Three Days. Splitting into three production groups, CXYP participants successfully devised and staged three original one-act plays in under 72 hours. This fast and furious summer event proved popular with local audiences, who were treated to an evening performance of each play.
In 2016, the drama groups showcased a further three original stage plays. The Pharaoh’s Plastic Pyramid, Sweet Dreams and Altitude Antics continued to establish CXYP as a vibrant, new writing youth theatre. A trip to see Annie at the Edinburgh Playhouse rounded out yet another successful season.
2017 became CXYP’s busiest season yet, with five productions performed across the three drama groups. Theatre practitioner, David Ross, became the leader of both primary groups, and oversaw a creative adaptation of CS Lewis’ Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Meanwhile, Sam and the Senior Drama Group set about creating two more original productions: The Night Train and Hindsight. A further performance of Alan Ayckbourn’s Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations was well-received by local press and audiences alike.
In August 2017, CXYP welcomed the arrival of musical theatre practitioner, Skye Watson. Skye took over as Group Leader of the P1-4 & Primary 5&7 Drama Groups and immediately set about laying the foundations for a modern adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
In December 2017, the Senior Drama Group staged their first Christmas production: A Christmas Carol: The Show Must Go On. Bringing Charles Dickens’ iconic ghost story to life, this festive comedy of errors delighted audiences with its inventive mix of Victorian wit and slapstick humour.
Alice’s Adventures was presented in May 2018, to full houses and great acclaim. While the story line was somewhat obscure, the singing and dancing were spectacular and a good time was had by all. Skye moved on at the end of term, and Jonathan White joined us to lead the two junior groups and the new S1 group. This latter group was formed to allow expansion of the numbers taking part in CXYP, as the popularity of the High School group (now S2-S6) was causing constraints on new members.
In December the S2-6’s presented CXYP’s second Christmas production Sue Townsend’s “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole” a comedy focusing on the worries and regrets of a teenager who believes himself to be an intellectual. This would be Sam’s final production as group leader as after years of service he moved on at the start of the year.
2019 brought a lot of change for CXYP David Ross was back to lead the S2-6 class and Alex Saunders was brought in to assist with the Primary Classes. She added some dance and movement.
In May the Primary Classes presented a double bill of devised plays. The P1-4’s performed “A Journey Through Crazy Worlds” in which a group of explorers set out on a Journey through Crazy Worlds to find pieces of a magical box. The P5-7’s performed “Truce” a play about the balance of Good and Evil the part they both play in our everyday lives and how these forces are kept in check. Overseen by two groups of people- The “Society of Sinisterly Evil” the “Guild for the Graciously Good!” Both plays were created by the young people from scratch using their own ideas and imagination.
Some of our senior class were treated to a Backstage Theatre Tour of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. It was great for them to be able to see behind the scenes of a theatre on this scale, learn about it’s history and it’s inner workings. Some of our young people from the primary classes also went to see Horrible Histories Awful Egyptians at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh.
To round off a very busy season our S1 and S2-6 class joined forces to present a night of one act plays. The S1 Class performed “Sparkleshark” by Philip Ridley which was about Jake fourteen year old takes refuge on the roof of a tower block in order to write stories. The S2-6’s presented a well known play “Our Day Out” by Willy Russell a comedy about an inner-city school in Liverpool who go on a trip to Conway Castle in Wales. Both plays were well received.
During the summer we took some of our young people from the senior class to the National Festival of Youth Theatre. This is a Bi annual event organized by Youth Theatre Arts Scotland (YTAS). This year it was held in Ayr at the Ayr Gaiety. This was a packed weekend of workshops, performances and CAMPING. Workshops our young people took part in included singing, acrobalance, Shakespeare and playwriting. Throughout the weekend they were also treated to performances by Firefly Arts, The Gaiety and RCS Young Company, Falkirk Youth Theatre, Airdrie Youth Theatre, Lab Station, Capall Dorcha, Peek Youth Theatre and Solar Bear (a deaf youth theatre) as well as the Dioscesan School for Girls from New Zealand.
In August Jonathan and Alex took the lead on the 2019’s summer workshops- Three Plays in Three Days. The theme for this was “Time”. From day one, ideas were flowing as the young people started from scratch to build their play. Day two they started to build their set and source their props and costume. Day three they added sounds and lights. Plays included a time travelling clock (“Pollution Problem”), a Cowboy/Western bar (“Rattlesnake Creek”) and the end of the world (“24 Hours”).
After the Summer, David set about writing and directing the Senior Classes Christmas production “Cinderella”. This was a traditional pantomime with lot’s of singing, dancing and funny local references. This was enjoyed by audiences young and old alike. Our Primary Classes were also working towards their end of term sharing in which the P1-4’s performed “The Snowflake Machine” by Lou Treleaven and the P5-7’s performed a devised murder mystery “The Death Before XMas”.