Windsor College students take centre stage at the National Theatre

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Talented performing arts students from East Berkshire College in Windsor performed to a sell-out crowd at the National Theatre on London's South Bank recently.

The 15 students were one of only 10 groups chosen from over 230 school and youth theatre companies across the UK to perform a new play at this year's National Theatre Connections Festival.

The students delivered an outstanding performance of a new play by renowned playwright Simon Vinnicombe. The play tells the story of a group of Year 11 pupils who find themselves precariously on the brink of adulthood as they face their final days of school, exam results day and the School Prom.

Over the last three months, 10 new plays have been premiered by schools and youth theatre groups across the country, all hoping to be offered the chance to tread the boards at one of the most famous theatres in the UK, if not the world.

The young actors initially performed the play at the Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture in Windsor before taking the show to The Bush Theatre in Shepherd's Bush for one night. It was these well-received performances that led to the group's selection for a one-off performance at The National Theatre.

Alex Reader (20, from Maidenhead), who is studying a Performing Arts Level 3 course, explains: "It is a real honour to perform at such a prestigious venue. We couldn't believe it when we were told that we'd been chosen. This was the biggest audience we have ever performed in front of, so we had a lot to prove. Plus, there was the added pressure that there might be casting directors watching. It was an amazing experience, however, and a great way to finish our course."

Rui Gouveia (19, from Windsor) adds: "Before the performance, we had the chance to rehearse with professionals from the theatre and the writer. It was great to get their advice on how they saw the characters and especially important to know that the writer was happy with how we delivered his work."

Commenting on the College's selection for the festival, playwright Simon Vinnicombe, said: "I thought the students owned the play and really inhabited the characters. They delivered the play with an energy that showed me they loved it.

"The play explores the pressures and anxieties of one of the biggest moments in a teenager's life. It follows the characters through the final days of school, from the prom and last day of school to exam results day."

Lecturer Jamie Davies said: "We are very proud of the students. This is only the second year that we have entered the Connections Festival, so to get through to the final ten and perform at the National is an outstanding achievement."

The National Theatre Connections Festival is an annual festival of new plays for young performers, which aims to inspire 13-19 year olds with high-quality new writing. Over the past three months, ten new plays have been premiered across the UK by 230 school and youth theatre companies. Only ten of those groups were invited to perform their productions at the National on London's South Bank.

East Berkshire College's performing arts department is located at its Windsor College in St Leonards Road and has growing reputation for excellence. Students are given the opportunity to perform in a professional venue through its partnership with the Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture and many former students have gone onto successful careers on the stage and screen.

For further information on East Berkshire College and its performing arts courses, including an exciting new HND programme, call 0845 373 2500 or click here.

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