Connections is the National Theatre’s annual, nationwide youth theatre festival. The programme has been established for 27 years with a celebrated history of championing the talent of young people from across the UK. Every year, the National Theatre commissions ten new plays for young people to perform, bringing together some of the UK’s most exciting writers with the theatre-makers of tomorrow. Connections works with 300 youth companies and over 6,000 young people annually from every corner of the UK.
As a partner theatre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch are thrilled to be welcoming five companies over three days to present their work.
NT Connections Day 1 – Thursday 20 April
Is This Good Enough? by Avaes Mohammad, performed by Eastbury Community School
NT Connections Day 2 – Friday 21 April
Innocent Creatures by Leo Butler, performed by New City College Epping Forest
Strangers Like Me by Ed Harris, performed by Roding Valley High School
NT Connections Day 3 – Saturday 22 April
The Heights by Lisa McGee, performed by Ormiston Rivers Academy
(Circle Dreams Around)The Terrible, Terrible Past by Simon Longman, performed by Store Room Youth Theatre
Is This Good Enough? by Avaes Mohammad
Young people from all over the city – the Rudeboys, the Party Girls, the Footballers, the Chess Players, the Skateboarders, the Drug Runners and the Uniformed Schoolkids – converge on the park one cold winter’s night.
They have been summoned there by the mysterious and enigmatic Cyroe. No one really knows who Cyroe is, or has ever really met him. All they do know is that when Cyroe calls, you answer.
Avaes Mohammad’s scripts have chronicled post 9/11 multicultural Britain and represented the challenges of young people in the UK. He currently seeks to engage with the heritage of Islamic and Sufi literatures, reinterpreting them for contemporary western audiences. As a performance poet, his influences range from the Sufi saints of South Asia to the dub poets of Jamaica. His essays and opinion pieces engage with topics that include integration, identity and the arts.
Suggested content guidance: Recommended for ages 13+. Includes references to drug use.
Innocent Creatures by Leo Butler
Soon, very soon, Big Ben will be underwater, surrounded by ice floes.
Enid and Mia wait to be rescued from the rising floodwaters and taken to a Holiday Inn to be reprogrammed. In this world, robots are in charge and Mia and Enid must decide whether they too want to live forever or take their chances in the icy waters.
Will they decide that Earth’s last sunset is worth hanging around for thousands of years to see?
Leo Butler is an award-winning playwright. His plays have been produced at the National Theatre, Royal Court, Almeida, Birmingham Rep and RSC. He has written many plays about young people, including Made of Stone and Redundant at the Royal Court; Boy at the Almeida; and Decades for Brit School and Bridge Theatre Company. Other work includes I’ll Be the Devil for the RSC; and Lucky Dog and Faces in the Crowd at the Royal Court; The Early Bird at Queen’s Theatre, Belfast; Woyzeck (adaptation) and All You Need Is LSD at Birmingham Rep; Cinderella at Theatre Royal Stratford East; and Alison! A Rock Opera for the Royal Court and King’s Head. For ten years, Leo Butler was Writers Tutor at the Royal Court Theatre and helped nurture a new generation of playwriting talent.
Suggested content guidance: Recommended for ages 15+. This is a sci-fi play set in the near and distant future, and features characters who are robots or part android. Within this context, the play features discussion of characters being “exterminated” and “gas chambers”; violence to an animal (which is revealed to be robotic); a character cutting open their wrists to reveal wires; and a character’s eyes being gouged out and replaced with implants. Strong language.
Strangers Like Me by Ed Harris
Elbow’s best friend, Hamster, has unexpectedly died. Everyone expects Elbow to be grieving… right? But Elbow isn’t sure how to do it.
Privately, Elbow is beginning to feel they weren’t even as close as everyone makes out. It would be better if everyone just left Elbow alone – his mum, dad, stupid big brother, Donut, but especially all those annoying kids at school pretending they really care by writing poems, singing songs and holding a vigil at Elbow and Hamster’s favourite meeting place. Who do they think they are?
Elbow doesn’t know. He just has a strange feeling inside – an absence of feeling at all.
Ed Harris is an award-winning, dyslexic playwright, poet and comedy writer based in Brighton. Before finding his feet as a writer, Ed Harris was a binman, care worker and even spent a winter as a husky trainer in Lapland. Plays include Mongrel Island at Soho Theatre and in Mexico (as Perro Sin Raza); and The Cow Play, What the Thunder Said (Writers’ Guild Award for Best Play for Younger Audiences) and Never Ever After (shortlisted for the Meyer-Whitworth award). He wrote his first opera, A Shoe Full of Stars (YAM Award in 2018 for Best Opera), with composer Omar Shahryar.
Radio includes Porshia, Dot, The Resistance of Mrs Brown (Sony Gold/Radio Academy Award), Troll (Writers’ Guild Award), and Billions (BBC Audio Drama Award). He is a Royal Literary Fellow and has recently been awarded an Arts Council grant to write his first children’s novel, The Night Is Large. Ed Harris will also be adapting a season of Kafka’s novels for radio and stage for both BBC Radio 4 and Oxford University’s Global Kafka Festival, commemorating the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death in 2024.
Recommended for ages 14+. Play explores responses to the death of a friend of the lead character (unseen, offstage). Strong language. In a non-naturalistic scene, one character – who is the embodiment of part of the lead character’s psyche – has their tongue ripped out. It is then reattached later in the play.
The Heights by Lisa McGee
Lillie lives on the Heights Estate; a place where nothing ever happens, except in Lillie’s head.
Lillie’s not like most people. For starters, she never goes out, but sits in her bedroom window on the sixth floor of her tower block, watching the world and the people in it go by. As she sits, she makes up stories: some sad, some happy, some funny. But they are just stories, aren’t they?
Lisa McGee, an award-winning screenwriter and playwright from Derry, is the creator, writer and executive producer of Derry Girls. She co-created, co-wrote and was executive producer on The Deceived with her husband Tobias Beer and was creative director, executive producer and wrote an episode of the BBC monologues on poverty Skint. Her other TV work includes London Irish, Raw, Being Human, The White Queen and Indian Summers.
Suggested content guidance: Recommended for ages 13+. Strong language. Some infrequent moments of violence – these include one character choking another, and a scene where a character is tied up and gagged. In a non-naturalistic scene, there is a description of a glass baby shattering and causing a character’s arms and legs to bleed.
(Circle Dreams Around) The Terrible, Terrible Past by Simon Longman
A recurring dream. There are fish, chickens, cows, who all look and sound like people and people who look kind of familiar.
They dream about the past mainly, a past that they don’t belong to but a past that wants to belong to them. And then there’s a butcher, killing people.
The dream circles around, going back to the start again and again; a dream they can’t get escape.
Simon Longman is a playwright from the West Midlands. His plays include Patient Light for Eastern Angles; Island Town for Paines Plough; Gundog at the Royal Court; Rails at Theatre by the Lake; White Sky at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Royal Court; Sparks at the Old Red Lion; and Milked for Pentabus. He is the recipient of the 49th George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright and has previously won the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme. His work has been translated and produced internationally.
Suggested content guidance: Recommended for ages 14+. Strong language. A brief reference to substance abuse. One brief, mildly sexually explicit conversation. The following are seen within the context of a dream: a dead body covered in blood, and weapons including an axe, a meat cleaver and a bolt gun.