James McAvoy steps in to rescue crisis-hit Edinburgh theatre group launch new classes with the stars

Scottish stage and screen favourite James McAvoy has stepped in to rescue a crisis-hit theatre group and allow it to run a series of online masterclasses with leading actors and writers.

Monday, 10th August 2020, 11:49 am
James McAvoy will be funding a series of online theatre classes for young people in Scotland.
James McAvoy will be funding a series of online theatre classes for young people in Scotland.

The X-Men and Atonement star is putting his own money into a new venture which will give young people across Scotland the chance to learn about acting, writing, film production and design from some of the biggest names in the business.

McAvoy is joining forces with Filth co-star Shauna Macdonald, a long-time friend after they themselves met at a youth theatre group as teenagers, to kickstart the new series of classes for 3-18 year-olds.

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His donation will ensure that young people are able to take part in the classes regardless of their family’s financial circumstances.

Actress Shauna Macdonald set up Edinburgh Youth Theatre in Portobello.

Macdonald, who is best known for the horror films White Chamber and The Descent, the BBC series Spooks and The Cry, and award-winning stage play Mouthpiece, set up the Edinburgh Youth Theatre group in her native Portobello six years ago.

But the group suffered a dramatic drop in income when it was forced to cancel its weekly classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Macdonald, who has moved all of the group’s classes online, said McAvoy’s “substantial” donation would help pay for an eight-week series of classes to be run in the autumn under a new bursary scheme named after the actor.

Participants include actor Jack Lowden, star of films like Tommy’s Honour, Dunkirk and Mary Queen of Scots, Kate Dickie, whose screen roles include Filth, Red Road and Our Ladies, and Moyo Akandé, who starred alongside Macdonald in The Cry.

Robert Florence and Iain Connell, creators of the hit BBC Scotland comedy Burnistoun, writers Jenni Fagan and Stef Smith, and director Philip John, whose credits include the TV series Outlander and the film Moon Dogs, which Macdonald starred in.

McAvoy met Macdonald when they pair were both involved with Paisley Youth Theatre and they studied at drama school in Glasgow two years apart from from each other.

Glasgow-born McAvoy said: “Youth theatre was the spark that ignited a passion for drama in me, and as well as being the place I met Shauna it helped build in me a confidence that many children from low income household lack.

"So many aspects of the performance industry and arts education already feel like the preserve of the privileged so I believe it is vital that enriching learning opportunities like Edinburgh Youth Theatre should be accessible to all.”

Macdonald said: “The James McAvoy Bursary means that many more young people in Edinburgh and beyond will have the chance to nurture their creative voice and be given a safe space to expressive themselves. I am passionate that drama can change people’s lives for the better.

"This bursary will allow us to positively affect so many more young people, helping them to not only excel in the arts but also to explore their sense of themselves and their world through using drama.”

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