In 1984, Spare Tyre were asked by the Cockpit Theatre to run a drama training project for young unemployed people. The project resulted in a musical show focused on the personal experiences of the young people in the group. Afterwards the group stayed together to tour the show and through that work got their Equity Cards [Actor’s Union].
After the success of the first project, Spare Tyre went on to launch several similar ones at various venues in London, including at the Old Vic Theatre where the group formed Upfront Theatre Company. Projects typically lasted for twelve weeks, and involved devising, writing and rehearsing a musical play based on issues that resonated with the group, as well as developing performance skills.
A publicity pack for venues describes the process as follows:
‘Each project is set up in advance in collaboration with the host venue. A broad theme is chosen, such as leaving home, competition or addiction. The project is advertised locally, inviting out of work 16-25 year olds to come to a group audition and 15 are selected. Training begins using theatre and music games, improvisation, cartooning and participatory techniques to build a cohesive team and allow personal stories to evolve in an atmosphere of trust. These evolve into a scenario and then a script.
Other aspects of theatre training continue throughout, including voice, music and dance. The Directors finalise a script based on the young people’s improvisations and songwriting, and rehearsals begin. Seven weeks after the initial audition a complete musical play opens to the public. The first performances take place at the host venue followed by a tour of schools, youth clubs and local theatres.
A Grand Finale performance completes the project; follow-up includes discussions about continuing the group and individual training.’
Commenting on the impact of these projects, Spare Tyre state:
‘The level of achievement has been remarkable and the experience has allowed the young people involved to make decisions and changes in their lives.’