Thursday, May 30, 2024


THREE students at Shimna Integrated College, Aurora Milligan, Jana Pobloth and Sophie Waddell, have been chosen to perform at the National Theatre in London next month. The Newcastle school has congratulated the girls on such a “significant achievement”.

This opportunity for Aurora, Jana and Sophie comes as part of the Crescent Arts Youth Theatre’s production, ‘Strangers Like Me’, which was selected from a pool of 300 arts groups across the UK. Northern Ireland has not been represented at this prestigious event for the past 25 years.  The National Theatre’s Connections programme serves as a nationwide youth theatre festival, granting youth groups the opportunity to stage new plays written for young audiences.   Each year, the Connections team, along with mentor directors and writers, selects the companies that will perform at the National Theatre Festival. They evaluate cast performance elements such as clarity, audibility, storytelling, conviction and energy.

The principal of Shimna Integrated College, Steve Pagan, said: “This opportunity is testament to our students’ exceptional talent and dedication. It’s great that they get to showcase their stage craft at a worldrenowned theatre.”  Jana has expressed her excitement at the chance to be on stage at the National Theatre. “I am so thrilled about this opportunity,” she said. “With all expenses covered and the added excitement of treading the same boards as some of the world’s most famous performers, I can’t wait!”  Sophie added: “To showcase our hard work on such a renowned stage, and for this to happen once I’ve completed my GCSE exams is unbelievable.   “The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation’s involvement in this opportunity is remarkable too. Who knows, maybe Mr Webber himself will show up and witness our performance!”  Being selected holds special significance for Aurora Milligan and her family. The last time the Connections National Theatre Programme was awarded to a Northern Ireland company, (coinciding within the same year as the Good Friday Agreement), her father and uncle, Ciaran and Brian Milligan, were part of that very group.

Ciaran conveys his delight at seeing his daughter follow in his footsteps 25 years later. “The opportunity to perform at the National Theatre London cannot be underestimated,” he said. “To perform in front of a sold-out audience, filled with fans, industry professionals, and even celebrities, is an experience of a lifetime. “Aurora and the rest of the cast are in for an unforgettable journey. As a father, I couldn’t be prouder.”  Aurora also shared her enthusiasm. “I am incredibly excited to be heading to London,” she said. The sold-out shows in Belfast were so much fun, but bringing our play to a wider audience will be truly awesome.  “Also, to be able to share this experience with my dad, who lived this same experience 25 years before me, is something I know we will both treasure forever.”  The girls will grace the stage as part of the Crescent Arts Youth Theatre ensemble cast at the National Theatre in London on Saturday June 24.

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