Annabel Harkness accepted onto the National Youth Theatre Summer Scheme

Annabel Harkness, who recently starred as Lieutenant Smolsky in BA's production of Bugsy Malone, is one of a handful of Northern Ireland teenagers and young people to be accepted onto the National Youth Theatre's prestigious summer scheme.

Annabel Harkness, who recently starred as Lieutenant Smolsky in BA’s production of Bugsy Malone, is one of a handful of Northern Ireland teenagers and young people to be accepted onto the National Youth Theatre’s prestigious summer scheme. Past alumni of NYT include Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, the list goes on.

In the 1950s and 60s NYT pioneered the idea of ‘youth theatre’, staging professional standard productions made up solely of young people on leading stages in the West End and on tour. They continue to find and develop young talent in all areas of theatre.

We caught up with Annabel recently to ask her more about the NYT summer scheme.

How did you find out about NYT?

I found out about NYT through my drama teacher, Mrs Nelson.

How did you apply?

I signed up for an audition on the NYT website.

What was the audition like?

The audition took place at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in late December. We had to prepare a 2-minute dialogue of our choice to perform in front of two representatives of NYT, but first there was a group audition with everyone who was auditioning. In my group there were about twenty people, all between the ages of 17-25. I was the youngest there, which was a bit daunting, but the people conducting the group audition were really encouraging and friendly, which gave me confidence. Within the group audition, we played several games that gave us an opportunity to show how we worked with other people and our improvisation skills. The group audition lasted about two hours, with a short break halfway through, and then the individual auditions started. I had to wait two hours for mine, which gave me an opportunity to go over my monologue.

What exactly will you be doing with NYT?

By being a member of NYT, I will be involved in productions that will promote ‘platforming young talent on West End stages, in stadiums world-wide and at iconic sites both home and abroad’. These productions can vary, from original plays written by young NYT writers to classics like Shakespeare. NYT also provide the opportunity to write and create short films. My involvement with this brilliant company will provide the chance for me to meet and work with amazing, talented people; travel abroad and develop my skills as an actress.

How did your love of drama develop?

When I was 10, I went to see The Lion King on the West End, and ever since then I have loved performances of any kind! However, I didn’t actually start acting myself until I did GCSE Drama. It was through this that I was able to develop my skills and also be introduced to different opportunities outside of school. Since I have started acting, I have been involved in two school productions, The Boy Who Fell Into a Book and Bugsy Malone, and two productions outside of school, playing Leisl in The Sound of Music with Theatre at the Mill. I have also been in the chorus of a Voiceworks’ production of West Side Story.

What else would you like to do in the future?

I plan to apply to train for different stunt skills for film and theatre, which I can do outside of school/university. I have applied to be an extra through The Extras Department. I also plan to be involved in as many productions as possible and continue my participation the Theatre School at the Lyric Theatre. Hopefully I will go on to be part of their Drama Studio. I plan to apply for different acting schools to complete a degree in acting and become a casting director. However, I have the backup plan of studying Psychology at university. I will continue to be involved in as many different productions as possible throughout the rest of my education.

We are all delighted for Annabel, well done!