Presented by Theatre by the Lake and NT Connections

NT Connections Festival

Sat 25 - Sun 26 March | 6.30pm

Every year, the National Theatre commission ten new plays for young people to perform, bringing together some of the UK’s most exciting writers with the theatre-makers of tomorrow.

300 youth theatre companies and over 6000 young people from every corner of the UK take part and produce a Connections play each year.

Theatre by the Lake’s 2023 Connections Festival in March will be an explosion of Cumbrian talent, featuring four incredible local youth theatre groups including our very own TBTL Young Company. Two days, four companies, four plays and one big event!

View the full programme below…


Old Times

by Molly Taylor. Performed by young people from West Lakes Academy.

Sat 25 March at 6:30pm

Twins Stefi and Zafer are about to turn 18. However, life is throwing up complications: Zafer is ill and Stefi is scared their past is about to catch up with them.

Five years ago, Stefi, Zafer and their friends were involved in an infamous crime that shook the town. Only one of them was accused and convicted: well-known trouble-maker and ‘bad kid’ Tom Joy.

When Stefi finds out Tom Joy has been released from prison, she fears he will be out for revenge and decides it’s time to get the gang back together. Stefi has a plan to protect them all, but will they ever be able to move on?

Molly Taylor is a writer and theatre-maker from Liverpool. Recent projects include The Key Workers Cycle at the Almeida; Sinder at Dundee Rep; and Me for the World for Young Vic Taking Part. Her plays for young people include The Wave and Cacophony at the Almeida; What Was Left at Southwark Playhouse; and Earthlings at The Yard. Her solo shows include Extinguished Things at Edinburgh Fringe / Adelaide Fringe; and Love Letters to the Public Transport System for National Theatre of Scotland.

Suggest content guidance:
Recommended for ages 14+
• References to cancer.
• Moderate language and two instances of strong language.
• Reference to the stabbing of a character (unseen, offstage).
• A brief reference to substance abuse.


Innocent Creatures

by Leo Butler. Performed by young people from Theatre by the Lake.

Sat 25 March at 8pm

Soon, very soon, Big Ben will be underwater, surrounded by ice floes.

Enid and Mia wait to be rescued from the rising floodwaters and taken to a Holiday Inn to be reprogrammed. In this world, robots are in charge and Mia and Enid must decide whether they too want to live forever or take their chances in the icy waters.

Will they decide that Earth’s last sunset is worth hanging around for thousands of years to see?

Leo Butler is an award-winning playwright. His plays have been produced at the National Theatre, Royal Court, Almeida, Birmingham Rep and RSC. He has written many plays about young people, including Made of Stone and Redundant at the Royal Court; Boy at the Almeida; and Decades for Brit School and Bridge Theatre Company. Other work includes I’ll Be the Devil for the RSC; and Lucky Dog and Faces in the Crowd at the Royal Court; The Early Bird at Queen’s Theatre, Belfast; Woyzeck (adaptation) and All You Need Is LSD at Birmingham Rep; Cinderella at Theatre Royal Stratford East; and Alison! A Rock Opera for the Royal Court and King’s Head. For ten years, Leo Butler was Writers Tutor at the Royal Court Theatre and helped nurture a new generation of playwriting talent.

Suggested content guidance:
Recommended for ages 15+

• This is a sci-fi play set in the near and distant future, and features characters who are robots or part android. Within this context, the play features discussion of characters being “exterminated” and “gas chambers”; violence to an animal (which is revealed to be robotic); a character cutting open their wrists to reveal wires; and a character’s eyes being gouged out and replaced with implants.
• Strong language.


(Circle Dreams Around) The Terrible, Terrible Past

by Simon Longman. Performed by young people from Brewery Arts.

Sun 26 March at 6:30pm

A recurring dream. There are fish, chickens, cows, who all look and sound like people and people who look kind of familiar.

They dream about the past mainly, a past that they don’t belong to but a past that wants to belong to them. And then there’s a butcher, killing people.

The dream circles around, going back to the start again and again; a dream they can’t get escape.

Simon Longman is a playwright from the West Midlands. His plays include Patient Light for Eastern Angles; Island Town for Paines Plough; Gundog at the Royal Court; Rails at Theatre by the Lake; White Sky at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Royal Court; Sparks at the Old Red Lion; and Milked for Pentabus. He is the recipient of the 49th George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright and has previously won the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme. His work has been translated and produced internationally.

Suggested content guidance:
Recommended for ages 14+

• Strong language.
• A brief reference to substance abuse.
• One brief, mildly sexually explicit conversation.
• The following are seen within the context of a dream: a dead body covered in blood, and weapons including an axe, a meat cleaver and a bolt gun.


Strangers Like Me

by Ed Harris. Performed by young people from William Howard School.

Sun 26 March at 8pm

Elbow’s best friend, Hamster, has unexpectedly died. Everyone expects Elbow to be grieving… right? But Elbow isn’t sure how to do it.

Privately, Elbow is beginning to feel they weren’t even as close as everyone makes out. It would be better if everyone just left Elbow alone – his mum, dad, stupid big brother, Donut, but especially all those annoying kids at school pretending they really care by writing poems, singing songs and holding a vigil at Elbow and Hamster’s favourite meeting place. Who do they think they are?

Elbow doesn’t know. He just has a strange feeling inside – an absence of feeling at all.

Ed Harris is an award-winning, dyslexic playwright, poet and comedy writer based in Brighton. Before finding his feet as a writer, Ed Harris was a binman, care worker and even spent a winter as a husky trainer in Lapland. Plays include Mongrel Island at Soho Theatre and in Mexico (as Perro Sin Raza); and The Cow Play, What the Thunder Said (Writers’ Guild Award for Best Play for Younger Audiences) and Never Ever After (shortlisted for the Meyer-Whitworth award). He wrote his first opera, A Shoe Full of Stars (YAM Award in 2018 for Best Opera), with composer Omar Shahryar.

Radio includes Porshia, Dot, The Resistance of Mrs Brown (Sony Gold/Radio Academy Award), Troll (Writers’ Guild Award), and Billions (BBC Audio Drama Award). He is a Royal Literary Fellow and has recently been awarded an Arts Council grant to write his first children’s novel, The Night Is Large. Ed Harris will also be adapting a season of Kafka’s novels for radio and stage for both BBC Radio 4 and Oxford University’s Global Kafka Festival, commemorating the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death in 2024.

Suggested content guidance:
Recommended for ages 14+
• Play explores responses to the death of a friend of the lead character (unseen, offstage).
• Strong language.
• In a non-naturalistic scene, one character – who is the embodiment of part of the lead character’s psyche – has their tongue ripped out. It is then reattached later in the play.