There’s been a lot of advertising on social media recently from a business called Re:ACT that I hadn’t heard of before and I was keen to know more about!
I’m so glad that I did decide to explore Re:ACT, or to use its full title Re:ACT Theatre, Music and Design, because what Natalia the Director and her team are offering is so well thought out, very comprehensive and really quite different.
The values that underpin Re:ACT are affordability, inclusivity and high quality, although Natalia was keen to point out that the main aim of Re:ACT was to have fun.
I was so impressed with Natalia for many reasons but particularly for her stance relating to gender. Natalia and her team go out of their way to reduce gender imbalance which often exists in this sort of environment. Her branding, her website, everything that is for public consumption sends out the clear message that boys are valued as much as girls at Re:ACT. Her strategies are working because of the 200 students enrolled about 40% are boys.
Natalia combines industry led and curriculum led training, she values what is done in school as much as what is done in drama school. She also sees what is done off stage as important as what is done on stage which is significant because in the Workforce Review of the UK Offstage Theatre and Performing Arts Sector which was published in 2017 they comment on the shortage of skilled workers in the off-stage workforce.
To this end, Re:ACT trains children and young people (aged 3 -19) in all aspects of musical theatre, song, dance and drama, as well as straight acting classes, dance classes, private singing tuition, music and design. Re:ACT is in every sense of the word a theatre school where the training is taught by expert, qualified, DBS checked and first aid trained tutors of the highest calibre.
Re:ACT offers regular workshops with Broadway, West End and other industry professionals, has key links and opportunities with established organisations such as The Tileyard Recording Studios in Kings Cross, London, discounted theatre trips and qualifications for those who wish to take their studies further.
They do a straight acting show which will reflect an important issue or highlight a concern. Last year, in support of Shelter, they did an original play called Private Property.
The play tackled the issue of homelessness in the south-west and was devised by the children and the Re:ACT team.
They put on a full-scale dance production every year, the last one they offered was Liberty.
Liberty was inspired by the liberation of the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz and involved all of their dancers from aged 5 to 19. Weighty content for such young children but one which they embraced wholeheartedly.
They also do an annual musical theatre summer show, the last one being Oliver.
Oliver was a resounding success and was their highest selling show to date, leaving the audience demanding more!
Re:ACT always do a professional pantomime which is performed with older students, as well as a children’s pantomime and a Christmas show put on by the Seedlings who are the 3 to 5 age group. The pre-school group offers an introduction to singing, dancing and acting technique with a focus on songs, routines, poems and stories – fuelling their imaginations. Last year’s pantomime was Snow White.
All the productions take place in the Princess Theatre in Burnham-On-Sea or the McMillan Theatre in Bridgwater. Natalia feels that it is important for the children to perform in a working theatre and of course it gives them a lot of opportunities to learn and experiment with lights and design. Such is the reputation of Re:ACT that 35%-40% of their audiences are nothing to do with Re:ACT.
There is no question as to Natalia’s credentials as Director of Re:ACT, she is leading or involved in a number of very exciting performing arts initiatives.
Her experience as Somerset Fringe Director for two successful, consecutive years has given her invaluable insight into the current theatrical climate and how to thrive in the performing arts industry. She is also developing brand new British musicals with composer, Stuart Brayson as well as having worked with, produced and directed the likes of: Theatre Royal Plymouth, Christina Bianco, Opera for All, BBC (Bristol and Wales), Welsh National Opera, Ria Jones and Bristol Old Vic.
Natalia is also one half of the events and creative consultancy, Myriad Co which I was also very interested in. She described it as being like a creative doctor – her team can go in, fix anything, make anything, create anything. For example, they have been hired by a production company to put on a full-scale production, they are part of the team putting on Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Paul, the other half of the business specialises in ice-shows, they’ve designed logos for companies, helped with set design and lighting……..the list is varied and endless and no job is too small or too large. What a fabulous endeavour which complements Re:ACT so perfectly. This is a lady with tremendous business acumen! Check out Myriad Co here: https://www.myriadcocreative.com/
I finished off our conversation by asking Natalia what she thought the children got from being a member of Re:ACT. She thought the greatest benefit that she saw was a sense of belonging and purpose and increased overall confidence.
Natalia also mentioned the improved academic performance reported by parents which didn’t surprise her as enhanced cognitive development is recognised as a benefit of such involvement. The benefits don’t stop there of course, children and young people who attend organisations such as Re:ACT get to make friends, practise their teamwork skills, improve language and communication skills, become more physically aware of their bodies, practise problem solving and learn empathy when they are studying characterisation at any level.
Natalia exudes pride and ambition for her children – having done a workshop with Zoe George who is currently starring in Wicked in the West End, Natalia had enough confidence in the children to suggest their participation with Zoe and other West End professionals in an ‘An Evening with Stuart Brayson’.
Stuart is a very experienced West End and Broadway composer and the writing partner of Sir Tim Rice. He is now branching out on his own and writing a new musical for the West End called Bess which Natalia is directing.
Stuart asked Natalia to help him put on the UK’s first ‘An Evening with Stuart Brayson’ similar to one he had put on in California. The Re:ACT children were the first to sing some of the new songs on the show and that is the recording that will be sent to Warner Brothers for the full rights to the musical. Although the six-year-olds didn’t quite realise the enormity of this the older students most certainly did.
I think involvement with Re:ACT will equate to lots of fun and learning – they are an exciting, vibrant, inclusive company, some of the team have been with Natalia since a very young age which speaks volumes.
The sessions are held in The Barn, Clevedon (term time only) on Saturdays, 9.30am – 11.30am. The first session starts on Saturday 14th September.
If you’re interested give Re:ACT a ring 07505 941 461 or send them a message on firstname.lastname@example.org.