Interview with Nathan Crossan-Smith, director of The Trails performed by Storyhouse Young Company (SYC)

Hi Nathan, can you tell us a bit about yourself and the work you’ve done previously?

I’m a director and practitioner based in Manchester, specialising in work with young people. I am Co-Director at Hydrocracker, an immersive theatre company, and I’m a proud Trustee for Graeae.

I have worked extensively with young people and community groups, teaching hip hop, lyricism, rap and grime to young people in prisons through my youth justice lyricism project Tipping Point and on a university course at the Institute of Contemporary Theatre, Manchester.

I have also worked on co-creation projects with National Theatre, Barbican, National Youth Theatre, National Theatre Wales, 20 Stories High, The Yard, Contact, Gate Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Kids Company.


Why did you want to get involved in Storyhouse Young Company?

I’m really passionate about access-led work and Storyhouse has a commitment to creative accessibility that is really unique. I came to see Stig of the Dump in Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre last year and it was great to see the work you were doing creatively incorporating British Sign Language.

Storyhouse Young Company (SYC) has a great reputation. And when young people join the young company they are already a little bit of a way into their journey, looking for that next step into professional work. That’s a stage that really excites me when working with young people – working with their considerable talents and finding the ways to challenge them creatively to help in taking that next step.


What do you enjoy most about working with young people?

I like their energy; they bring what they’re passionate about and what they’re angry about culturally, politically and socially.

With this project it’s been interesting to hear their views on the climate emergency and what that means to them and their future.


The Trials is such a brilliant, emotive play exploring the climate crisis. Why did you choose this play for Storyhouse Young Company (SYC) to perform?

This play makes a bold contribution to the theatrical language that’s developing for talking about the climate emergency, while at the same time putting young people at the centre of that conversation. It’s a challenging watch but it puts forward a world we might find ourselves in and invites us to think about justice and mercy.

It’s also, for me, a contemporary take on the classic piece of cinema, Twelve Angry Men. It’s exciting to feel the power of that dramatic legacy, whilst instilling it with renewed relevance, reflecting on our contemporary world and our questions and anxieties about the future.


How do you hope the audience will feel after watching the show?

I hope that people will feel energised into action.

I don’t think that guilt is particularly helpful in engaging people in social action, so I’m keen for the audience to go away feeling stirred and challenged, and thinking about the concepts of justice, inheritance and judgement in relation to climate change.


You only have a short amount of time in rehearsals with Storyhouse Young Company (SYC), how do you navigate this challenge?

We have a really brilliant, diverse team of creatives supporting us. I’m buzzing that Storyhouse Young Company (SYC) are getting to collab with so many amazing talented creatives:

Chloe Malandra, Assistant Director

Duffy, Creative Sign Consultant

Yandass Ndlovu, Movement Director

Roxy Daykin-Moores, Producer

Oliver Vibrans, Composer

Sally Wilkinson, Emma Britton and Pierce Starre, BSL rehearsal interpreters

Pierce Starre, BSL show interpreter


Storyhouse Young Company (SYC) for ages 17-25 is designed to give talented young and aspiring actors the opportunity to work with leading professionals with a wealth of experience in the theatre industry. The six month intensive programme culminates with a theatre production in the Storyhouse Garret Theatre. The class of ’23 will be performing a searing and timely production of Dawn King’s The Trials.


Find out more and book tickets for The Trials here.