Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Daniel Day Lewis… Just a couple of the illustrious names to have come out of the National Youth Theatre over the last 60 years – and the organisation show no signs of slowing down

The National Youth Theatre (NYT) has had quite a history since it was founded in 1956 by Michael Croft, a teacher at Alleyn’s Boys’ School in Dulwich. Artistic Director Paul Roseby, who joined the organisation in 2004, has witnessed his young stars singing the National Anthem at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Closing Ceremony watched by 2.5 billion people, and seen them be a part of the stunning Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, highlights that you’d be hard pushed to better. ‘It’s also the many vulnerable people the NYT has helped,’ Roseby points out. ‘That gives me as great a satisfaction.’

60 years of the National Youth Theatre

Paul Roseby and Rosamund Pike with National Youth Theatre members

It’s an exciting time at the NYT as they are auditioning for its 2016 intake all across the UK for ages 14-25. ‘The best hidden talent is so hidden they don’t know about it themselves,’ Roseby says on the many youngsters out there who would relish this opportunity. ‘That’s why I really encourage anyone to have a go – you just don’t know where it can lead to. Even if you suffer rejection [at the first hurdle], you will learn something about yourself.’

The auditions – which cover acting and technical courses – are open to youngsters of all backgrounds and offer the chance to join the NYT to build careers in the industry whilst working with other young people. ‘Even if you think you have got all the confidence in the world, auditions can still be terrifying and we are fully aware of that,’ Roseby says. ‘So, for the acting auditions, the first three hours of the day you are working with 29 other people who are all in the same boat getting involved with games, challenges, scene setting workshops… If nothing else, you get to meet other young people.’

How does the NYT choose the successful candidates? ‘It’s instinct,’ Roseby answers after a momentary pause. ‘If everybody had the secret to success, how dull would that be? Someone might do a dreadful speech [which forms part of the acting audition], but they may have a bit of a spark. That brave, give it a go attitude where we can see it’s someone we can work with. You can nurture talent.’

The NYT is keen on opening doors to a career in the theatre to all and sundry, with bursaries offered where possible – ‘We do not want finances to be a barrier at any point’ – and those successful will have quite an experience. The NYT membership that participants receive on completion affords them the opportunity to showcase their acting abilities through the NYT’s productions – locally, nationally and internationally – and for the first time they will offer an extended, industry standard three week Technical Course taught by top industry professionals in costume, lighting and sound, scenic construction and stage management.

60 years of the National Youth Theatre

The Merchant of Venice NYT production in 2015

What’s clear is there’s plenty of talented individuals out there who can continue adding to the impressive alumni roster that the NYT boasts. With the 60th anniversary upon us, does Roseby see the organisation continue to evolve. ‘Yes, I do,’ the man in the know simply says, adding that details of special anniversary celebrations will be announced in March. Who knows, perhaps you will be a part of history when the 100th anniversary of the NYT comes along.

WORDS Mark Kebble

The deadline for applications is 15 February – find out more information at nyt.org.uk or on Twitter @NYTofGB