Lyceum Youth Theatre alumni Isla Cowan tells us what a difference LYT made to her

I was a member of LYT for ten years and it has played a significant part in making me who I am today. LYT not only built up my confidence as a young person, providing a community of friends and encouraging tutors and role-models, but it also cultivated and nourished my love of theatre. A passion which is now my profession.

I was fortunate enough to be involved in both youth theatre productions and main stage shows throughout my time here. It was also through LYT that I was exposed to other opportunities, such as TV and Radio work for the BBC. My first big youth theatre production was Blood Wedding (Summer on Stage 2011) and I made many life-long friends that summer, many of whom have gone on to train as actors or work in theatre. 

The highlight from my time at LYT was creating and performing 7 Billion Others and Me (pictured here with me on the far right) for National Festival of Youth Theatre in 2012. This was led by Christie O’Carroll and we created the show as a small company in a 7:84 format. I relished researching each historic section and collaborating to create dramatic sequences. I was also responsible for writing the Poll Tax song, which was a poignant part of the play. We all felt such a sense of ownership of that show, and it was then that I truly came to think of myself not only as performer but a theatre-maker. This project also sparked my fascination with The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil by John McGrath which I  took as the topic for my final dissertation while studying at Cambridge University, examining the relationship between the temporary touring performance-environment and the environmental issues at the heart of the play, and how these compliment and contradict its socialist message.

What was special about LYT was that it not only allowed me to expand and fulfil my potential as a young performer, but as a writer and devisor too. I have written and directed many plays during my time at Cambridge and I am now studying an MLitt in ‘Writing for Performance’ at St Andrews University, where I hope to develop my skills as a writer and advance my career.

I have now come full-circle, returning to LYT this year as a writer and director. LYT has always been like a big family, full of enthusiastic and inspiring people, and I have been delighted to be welcomed back so warmly. I wrote BANTER a play for Senior LYT members, which was performed in a double bill with Girls Like That at the Traverse Theatre in March. This was very special for me, as I had performed in that same Traverse LYT slot in Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me in 2012. I love writing for young people, and use a lot of my own experience to inform what I write: I try to remember what kind of scripts we found exciting to work on when I was in LYT and emulate that. When I was working as the Assistant Director on this year’s Summer On Stage production, a young participant approached me, who had performed in BANTER, to tell me how much he enjoyed working on the script. I was deeply moved by this and it catalysed a moment of reflection for me, considering just how far I’ve come since I was his age.

I would not be where I am today without LYT and I am forever grateful to all those who taught, supported and believed in me. LYT has been a huge part of my past and something I hope will continue to be a huge part of my future.