Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville helping young Hartlepool actors to audition for National Youth Theatre

Film and TV actor Hugh Bonneville is helping aspiring young actors in Hartlepool to audition for one of the country's most prestigious theatre companies.

Thursday, 6th December 2018, 1:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th December 2018, 1:35 pm
Hugh Bonneville, centre, with members of the NYT West End REP company

The Dowton Abbey and Paddington star is supporting the new National Theatre Auditions Access Fund which could open the door to the opportunity of a lifetime.

The fund has been set up to help people aged 14-25 in areas of financial hardship or where drama provision has been cut in schools to be able to audition for free for the National Youth Theatre.

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Hartlepool has been chosen as one of only ten places in the UK for applications to the fund following a call out from the National Youth Theatre (NYT) for areas most in need.

Successful applicants will get to attend a workshop and audition when the NYT visits Hartlepool between January and March next year.

Hugh told the Mail: “I have teamed up with the National Youth Theatre, which I used to be a member of in my teenage years, in order to give access to people in parts of the country that are either geographically and or financially remote.

“They can audition for the National Youth Theatre that would otherwise be out of their reach.

Hugh Bonneville. Copyright Stuart McClaymont

“We’re well aware Hartlepool has had some really tough times recently.

“It’s an area that we have identified as somewhere there’s talent and passion for the arts, but no perceived opportunity, so we are trying to address that in a tiny way by saying we are going to come to Hartlepool.”

Successful applicants will get to attend a free workshop day in the town to prepare them for the audition the following day.

Budding performers who successfully pass the audition will then become members of the NYT and receive bursaries to attend a prestigious NYT summer course in London following in the footsteps of famous alumni including Hugh, Daniel Craig, Helen Mirren, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Zawe Ashton and Matt Smith to name a few.

Hugh Bonneville, who stars in the new Paddington 2 film, at the unveiling of one of five pop-up book installations in London. Picture: Matt Alexander/PA Wire.

Hugh added: “It was very transformative for me. The skills that are involved set you in good stead for whatever you do such as collaboration, discipline, working towards a common goal.

“That’s what the NYT can do for anyone.”

Young people in Hartlepool can apply for the Auditions Access Fund at

Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and High Grant attending the Paddington 2 Premiere at BFI Southbank, London. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.