‘Performance is everywhere’: Kane Husbands discusses the National Theatre’s largest schools tour

© Marc Brenner
Over the past year, artists from our physical ensemble theatre company The PappyShow have headed across the country to three partner schools in Walsall, Sunderland and Wakefield, to listen to 100 students tell us about their experiences over the past few years. It’s been an illuminating temperature check on the expanse of experience that young people across England are holding. We had deep discussions on things they’d lost following the pandemic, changing friendships, experiences of grief, pressures of growing up and what the world ahead looks like.

We have gone away and worked with a team of writers, dancers, musicians, singers to respond to this research and feel hugely proud and inspired to create Shut Up, I’m Dreaming.

Shut Up, I’m Dreaming is our honest, hopeful performance to young people. We want to open up a dialogue with your inner child, that keeps that ten-year-old you playful, hopeful, brave and fearless. A dialogue that speaks to the older you, and encourages you to keep dreaming – and to think big about what your life could be. We have a team of eight performers rich in their talent and diverse in their experiences that speak to the young people we have met.

© Marc Brenner

In partnership with local theatres across the country, we are taking this show across England to 12,000 students in 55 schools in the National Theatre’s Theatre Nation Partnerships network. For e11 weeks we will visit a different school each day – and we transform that space into our working theatre. We are taking over school halls and sports halls to create world class performance in the spaces that are familiar to young people.

Theatres hold cultures that have enabled some identities to feel safe and seen in their environments and others to feel excluded – this tour is an interruption to that narrative. We want to show that performance is everywhere – it’s that moment of singing you hear when you get goosebumps on your arm, it’s the musician busking in the street a song they wrote in their bedroom, it’s the dance routine learnt in the reflective glass in the shopping centre and it’s in big spaces in cities across the world.

At a time where we feel creativity is being removed from our syllabuses, we believe taking performance and theatre directly to young people can inspire and make us dream of more, see things differently and express our feelings.

This show is a bright brave response to our time. It is a love letter to the next generation rich in emotion and overt in its joy. I hope we can inspire you to walk into, and lead BIG lives and to keep dreaming… your whole life.