York St John students take over York Theatre Royal for week-long arts festival 

Performance students from York St John University will take over York Theatre Royal in May as part of the Takeover 2024: In The Limelight festival.  

Now in its twelfth year – but the fourth run exclusively by York St John students – the Takeover Festival gives young people the opportunity to gain valuable real-life work experience with support and mentoring from industry professionals.

Students from the School of the Arts have developed and will produce the programme for the large-scale arts festival, open to the public, running from Monday 13 May to Saturday 18 May.

As well as established acts, eight production companies made up of York St John students will tread the boards, as well as a special performance by the Out of Character Theatre Company, which formed out of the Converge programme, a partnership between York St John and local mental health providers.

Highlights of the festival include:

  • Hollie McNish, the Sunday Times bestselling writer, reading from her new book, Lobster and other things I’m learning to love
  • The Real Manhunter Live!, with retired Metropolitan Police Murder Squad detective Colin Sutton, presenter of the true crime documentary series on Sky Crime
  • Locomotive for Murder, an improvised whodunnit using audience suggestions, performed by the Pinch Punch theatre company
  • Alice in Wonderland Abridged, performed by Pop Yer Clogs
  • VERVE, a triple bill of bold dance work.

Performances from York St John students include:

  • The Women of Whitechapel by Misery Loves, a musical exploring the lives of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper
  • Verbal Theatre, an all-female company with a performance about the experiences of growing up as a woman
  • Bounce Back, a performance based on friendship and resilience, created following input from local children aged 7 and 8
  • Final Girls, a multimedia performance set in a forest, where a group of unlikely friends try to survive against an unknown entity.

Dr Sarah O’Brien, Associate Head for Performance in the School of Arts at York St John University, said the Takeover Festival was an exciting and highly valuable long term placement opportunity for all final year students in Acting, Drama and Musical Theatre at York St John.

“This will be the fourth year where our students have taken complete control over the York Theatre Royal building for one week to curate an exciting programme of touring artists alongside platforming their own new work,” said Sarah.

“In order to achieve this, they have worked closely for over nine months with staff at the York Theatre Royal to understand every aspect of how a theatre runs in today’s challenging climate. Expect an engaging, original and stimulating line up!”

Julian Ollive, Head of Creative Engagement at York Theatre Royal, said that each participating student was part of two groups – a festival group and a production group.

“In their festival group, they are mentored by one of our team in either Creative Engagement, Production Management, Producing, Communications or Front of House to plan that specific aspect of the festival,” said Julian.

“In the production groups, each will make a piece to show during the festival, which will blend with professional work to create a dynamic and exciting programme reflective of what the students want to see on our stages.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from them and for them to gain valuable experience and insight into the processes that go into producing professional work. We hope this will be transformative experience for the students and support them into entering the industry.”

All performances by York St John groups are free for university students (with valid ID) and £5 for the general public – but with a buy one, get one free option.

For all other professional shows, there is a multi-buy offer for students. Individual shows are already discounted to £10; however, this is reduced to £30 in total if tickets are purchased for five or more shows.

Book a show from the festival line-up on the York Theatre Royal Takeover 2024 website.

Image shows student members of the Misery Loves theatre group