Curtain up on Norwich festival of drama

Last autumn, Norwich youth venue The Garage, in Chapelfield, launched its first season of professional performance for young people. Entitled Curtain Up, it proved to be a major success and they are following it up this month with a week-long festival of theatre.

'Our first season was tremendously exciting and really well received,' said Toni Bentley, general manager at The Garage. 'We're keen to develop The Garage programme and make it a regional centre for young people's performance. Packing our second season into a festival week will really help build momentum and excitement.'

The festival week will see four professional companies perform at The Garage and a double bill from The Garage's own theatre company.

'It's great for those who come to our classes to be able to showcase their skills alongside professional performers,' explains Toni. 'It's very much what the Curtain Up! programme's about — raising the skills and confidence of our young people.'

The season kicks off on February 20 with Thirsty by The Paper Birds, a multi-award winning company that has a strong track record of socially observational theatre. Thirsty weaves together real stories, memories and booze based confessions to examine Britain's drinking culture.

Acting Up, an improvised comedy game show where two teams battle it out, creating comical versions of well know films, television and adverts, will be performed on February 21 by comedy double act and actors Ashley J and Tee-J.

The Garage Theatre Company gets in on the act on February 22 with a double bill featuring two short plays. One Million Tiny Plays About Britain is a revealing analysis of the UK in the 21st century. The Grandfathers is a new play that offers an emotive insight into young people preparing to be soldiers. It will also be featured as part of the National Theatre Connections festival at the Playhouse in April.

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The Wardrobe Ensemble will perform their acclaimed piece Riot on February 23. Based on the true story of chaos at the opening of a new Ikea store in 2005, it's a comedic tragedy for the modern age.

The festival closes on February 24 with Bluebeard: A Fairytale for Adults, a visually stunning tale of a violent nobleman with a knack of murdering his wives.

'It's a wonderfully varied programme,' explains Toni Bentley. 'Some of the shows deal with adult themes, ensuring they'll appeal to people of all ages, but will provide a challenging and entertaining theatre experience for younger audiences.'

? Curtain Up! Festival takes place at The Garage, Chapelfield, Norwich, February 20-24, show tickets �7.50-�5, festival passes �20-�15, 01603 283382, Shows are suitable for 13 yrs+.