Getting to know the cast of When Romeo Met Juliet
It was almost a year ago since we started auditioning well over 150 potential young actors - all expectant hopefuls ready for the chance to be in one of the world's best known plays. Or did they just want to be on TV?
Well, whatever their expectations were, nothing could prepare any of us for what lay ahead in the next few weeks. And that's the point.
For mentors and actors Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti, and for me, artistic director of the National Youth Theatre and director of Romeo and Juliet, this was all new territory and I'd be lying if I said at times I was not out of my comfort zone!
Some of these young people have never done theatre before, let alone Shakespeare. Some had never even been to the theatre. Not so uncommon, perhaps, with a generation high-wired up to instant communication, but the complete lack of understanding of the challenges of staging a live show in a professional theatre was, at times, to test my control freak-like nature!
Our chosen location was Shakespeare's county of Warwickshire but it was a thousand miles away from the tourist-trod cobbled streets of Stratford-upon-Avon. Cleverly, our home was to be Coventry - a town with a dramatic history and a perfect place to stage our own dramatic challenge.
We were all made incredibly welcome by the two contrasting schools we auditioned in and I remember being bombarded by cake, biscuits and bowls of fruit heavily laden on the audition panel table, like a scene from an old Derek Jarman movie.
Would the children be able to take the pressure and the discipline of the next few weeks or would the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet be mirrored by some tragic behaviour in the rehearsal room?
It is brilliant that the BBC has committed to such a challenging, collaborative, and life-changing programme using Shakespeare and theatre as the hook. And for me, it was also great to sit on the BBC Breakfast news sofa to have the chance to discuss the virtues of the show.
Paul Roseby is artistic director of the National Youth Theatre and is the director of the play Romeo and Juliet within the TV programme When Romeo Met Juliet.
For details on repeats and upcoming shows see When Romeo Met Juliet