Leaping off the Edge of the Chalk Pit!

As Stig of the Dump opens for a two week run Matthew Lyons, Head of Young Company, reflects on the process leading up to opening night…

 ‘It was during a lull on the third of three technical Stig of the Dump rehearsals (due to the three casts!) that I looked around at the technical gallery behind me. In front of me was our Youth Theatre Director Robin, working closely with a group of young directors who in turn were working closely with a group of over 100 children, but behind me, operating the sound and lights, there wasn’t an adult to be seen. Every person in the Rayne Theatre working on the production except for myself and Robin was under 22 years old. We were outnumbered and it was fantastic!

From the very first Stig of the Dump workshop with our Children’s Theatre in 2016, to the first run of the production as part of Chickenshed Young Company’s New Routes Festival in 2018, this project has grown through the guidance and leadership of Chickenshed’s young people. Now in 2019, this production is helping us define our youth guided approach when making work with children.


The number of things that I have learned has been immense. Working on a massive project like this, whilst trying to be open to taking guidance from the young voices around you, can sometimes be difficult. Instinct tells you to shut it out and do what you know will work. Us adults are the ones with the experience – right? Time to put this into action and say ‘thanks but that’s all now’ to the team you have been working with. ‘We’ve got it from here – right?’ Wrong.

Difficult is why we set about developing this project. Difficult is what changes views, develops opinions and cultivates Chickenshed Young Company’s methods of making theatre. Difficult is what makes sense when you look on stage and see the ownership of a project in the hands of the young people who are working like they have never worked before to get it right - right for them, right for the person next to them. Difficult is what Chickenshed is all about.

This week sees three opening nights. Each cast coming in is as ready in anticipation as the one before them. Each performance will belong to the children and young people performing it. We will reflect and review once the run is over but for now it’s over to the Chickenshed Young Company to take a deep breath, close their eyes, and take a leap off the edge of the chalk pit and into their Stig of the Dump.