Cardboard Citizens ACT NOW

Cardboard Citizens ACT NOW poster for Life Ain't No Musical


Young People's Musical Theatre

After winning a grant of £4,500 from the Performing Arts Fund, homeless people’s theatre company Cardboard Citizens employed musical director Arun Ghosh to help the group develop their understanding of musical theatre. They went on to create a piece in which music would drive development and improve the participants’ self-esteem.

The outcome was Life Aint No Musical, a piece inspired by a previous production in which lyrics and music had spontaneously arisen during the writing process. Arun Ghosh describes how by making music the leading force in the creation it allowed the group to convey some “really magical and intense things that normally… it’d be harder to see on a stage.”

There is a particular style of theatre that people will be expecting to see... and those expectations are going to be blown out of the water.

Best known as practitioners of forum theatre – a type of theatre that uses interactive methods to analyse and unravel situations of oppression – Cardboard Citizens Director Tony McBride felt that the group worked beyond their usual scope. Tony explains, “there is a particular style of theatre that people will be expecting to see in this show, and those expectations are going to be blown out of the water. They’ll be presented with something that is just way beyond anything that they expected to see… it’s going to be very different because of the fact it was led by music.”

During the project participants not only developed an understanding of musical theatre but how it can also improve self-esteem and confidence. One participant described the feeling of having contributed to the creation of the music as: “I’m like ‘I helped make that’ and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel ‘I can do it’, not that I can’t do it. I can do it – I’ve proved it”.

Another participant summarised what it means to them: “The message [of the piece]… like I actually understand is – you’re not alone. We have a lot of kids out there that leave home, that are homeless, that have no one, that have no family… You’re not alone, because there’s someone else like that, and you won’t be like that forever. You’ll eventually pick yourself up and build a new life for yourself.”

Over two days, the group performed to an audience of over 250 people. Here’s what some of those who came to the show had to say:

“It was great to see young people achieve something so good in such a short period of time. I was amazed by their confidence and their commitment.”

“Soundtrack please! Epic show.”

“I tried to hold back my tears... a couple of times. There is honesty and love... and you feel it. Great job.”

“Amazing. Very inspiring.”

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Other Winners

Angel Shed Theatre Company

A Young People’s Musical Theatre (YPMT) grant of £5,000 gave London-based Angel Shed the opportunity to devise a new music hall show celebrating the Pearly Kings and Queens, and the life and work of Henry Croft, founder of The Pearly Society.

CS Performers

This Scottish youth theatre used their YPMT grant to hire an experienced musical director to help them stage a schools’ version of Les Miserables.

Cornwall Youth Theatre

Looking ahead to 2012, Cornwall Youth Theatre used their grant to commission a new piece of musical theatre on an Olympic theme written by a local composer and former member of the group itself.

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