Stagebox celebrates 5 years in business in 2020. Started by identical twin sisters Emily and L-J Keston, whilst they were only 20 and studying at separate Universities in Sheffield and Bristol, with the aim of discovering, mentoring and training children who demonstrate extraordinary talent and potential in the performing arts, regardless of background or income. Stagebox auditions thousands of children each year in theatres across the country and trains company members during the school holidays to an unrivalled professional level. The company also creates musical films on exclusive locations with 13 million YouTube views and counting.
The sisters themselves were trained actresses, having started their careers in professional television, film and the theatre with roles in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in the West End and later appearing in ‘Mr Selfridge’ on ITV and the film ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’.
The girls saw a gap in the market for elite training that was also affordable and Stagebox, different to other training models, has a monthly membership scheme with an internal scholarship programme funding £20,000 every year to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Stagebox started with their own money- no investors, bank loans or family financial support with one centre in Leeds (the girls reside close by) and now with centres in London and Manchester too. In 2016 their work with Stagebox saw the twins recognised by the Yorkshire Young Achievers Foundation when they won the Achievement in Management and Enterprise Award.
Staying close to its Northern roots but with a foot in the West End, there are expansion plans on the horizon for Birmingham, Bristol & Edinburgh. Current members not only access the finest training but also enjoy membership perks- this year alone they include an immersive Christmas performance experience, a show live in Leicester square, work with exclusive cinema brands, masterclasses with West End & Broadway creatives and US talent agency partnerships.
Stagebox members are trained exclusively by the premiere league of coaches in this country. Members have access to leading creatives at the cutting edge of the entertainment industry working with the finest directors, casting directors, choreographers, musical directors and more. Stagebox also has it’s own agency headed up by an independent management team who are at the epicentre of Film, Television and Theatre. Clients have gone on to work in leading roles on the West End stage, in television and film, with recent credits including the films ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Cats’; the West End productions of ‘School of Rock’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Annie’, ’Mary Poppins’, and much more.
“We founded Stagebox to provide elite training for the finest young talent in the UK. Our mission is to find, nurture and develop the stars of today and tomorrow through high level training programmes and performances both live, on screen and online. Our concept is talent training for the YouTube generation and we are passionate about providing modern, cutting edge industry training working tirelessly with dedication to our members nationwide. We provide a doorway to the industry internationally, with a particular passion for increasing diversity, equal opportunity and inclusivity.” EMILY & L-J KESTON
The Keston’s reputation and talent for scouting and finding child actors led to producers approaching them to work independently as casting directors so they created a second company Keston & Keston to do just that. Keston & Keston are now children’s casting directors and children’s general managers. Their casting next generation approach includes the use of an iOS app (the first children’s casting app in the industry) which encourages open access and genuine diversity across the U.K.
Emily and L-J have created two very special businesses within a very short space of time. Their innovative approach sets them apart in the industry and they have rapidly become market leaders in children’s casting. They are currently working on productions including Broadway export “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (UK Premiere) and “Nativity! The Musical” (starring Sharon Osbourne, Dani Dyer, Danny Dyer and Rylan Clark). These two ambitious young women are a force to be reckoned with and their work with children has changed lives and opened doors for thousands. Last May, Keston & Keston also produced and cast A Little Princess at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre working alongside the legendary Arlene Phillips who directed the show.
“We are passionate about providing a positive audition and production experience for all. The future of kids casting- we have developed an iOS casting app which is the first in the theatrical industry and encourages genuine diversity and equal opportunity in our search for child talent across the UK to star in professional theatre roles.” KESTON & KESTON
Here are just a few rising stars from Stagebox:
Matthew Illesley, 10 from Gloucestershire was discovered by co-founders of Stagebox at aged just 7 years old. From village Churchdown, he landed the lead role of Young Reggie in Hollywood feature film Paramount Pictures, Rocketman.
Olivia Brooks, 9 from Worcester in the Midlands was discovered by co-founders of Stagebox at just 8 years old. Olivia most recently landed a role in the feature film of Tom Hooper’s CATS and she is currently in the UK Tour of Nativity! The Musical.
Millie Kiss, 15 from Lancashire has just finished filming feature film Eight For Silver in France. Millie’s story is all the more remarkable as she touched the hearts of millions after she was in the Manchester arena bombing where her mother Michelle Kiss tragically was killed. Millie has gone on to overcome such adversity and is a rising star.
Mandy Ridings, 12 from Manchester is currently in pop group Kidzbop after being scouted at Stagebox. Since landing the job, Mandy has been filming in New York and across Europe.
Riley & Lochlan White, 13 from Stockport. The identical twins boys were discovered at Stagebox open auditions in Manchester. They’ve gone on to feature in films such as Surviving Christmas, Holmes and Watson with Will Ferrell and John C Reilly, Rocketman and the televised musical version of Elf! and in numerous theatre productions. The company fund the boys to train.
Isobel Khan, 13 was the first mixed race Indian/Caucasian Annie in British theatre history. Isobel from Wakefield, Leeds starred as Annie in both the West End and internationally. She is currently in rehearsals for Gypsy at The Royal Exchange.
Freya Yates, 12 from Sheffield began at Stagebox as a newcomer. Since joining she’s played Annie in Annie in the West End, Summer in School of Rock in the West End and is currently starring in White Christmas at The Dominion Theatre as Susan Waverley.
Eloise Groom, 11 from Hull starred as Sheridan Smith’s daughter in The More You Ignore Me. Eloise joined as a newcomer before landing the role alongside Smith, Ricky Tomlinson, Jo Brand, Mark Addy and Sally Phillips.
Agatha Meehan, 12 from York began at Stagebox as a newcomer. Since joining she’s played Annie in Annie in the West End, Summer in School of Rock in the West End and is about to lead the cast of the Leeds Playhouse reopening as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
Marley Quinlan Gardner, 11 from Stoke began as a newcomer at Stagebox aged 7 years old. She’s gone on to play Lavender in Matilda (West End) and is about to open as Baby June in Gypsy at The Royal Exchange.
Teni Taiwo, 13 from Herts. Since joining Stagebox, Teni has starring in Into The Badlands for AMC, RSC’s season at The Barbican and has just finished in School of Rock.
Rupert & Nic Illesley – parents of Matthew Illesley (star of Rocketman) “Part of our role as parents is to support and nurture our children; to guide and encourage; to give opportunities and offer new ventures, in the hope that they will find something they love doing and upon which they will thrive. The creatives behind Stagebox must therefore be parents to the most children in the history of parenting. They look after an amazing bunch of children, aged from 5 to 18, whom they nurture, mentor, train and care for, whilst allowing them access to opportunities we could only ever dream of. They take time to listen to us as parents and offer guidance where they can, and honesty at all times. When our Stagebox journey began four years ago, firstly with two children being involved, quickly followed by two more, it was most definitely a moment that changed our lives forever. We have experienced events and opportunities we never dreamed would be possible, such as a film premiere, watching our children perform on stage with leading industry professionals, and having access to incredible creatives to coach and train our children in singing, acting through song, and dance. More than this though, we have extended our family.”
BRISTOL, Bristol Old Vic (8th March)
BIRMINGHAM, Birmingham Hippodrome (15th March)
GLASGOW, Kings Theatre (28th March)
STRATFORD UPON AVON, RSC (4th April)
EDINBURGH, Festival Theatre (19th April)
LEEDS, Leeds Playhouse (28th June)
LONDON, The Other Palace (4th July)
MANCHESTER, Lowry (5th July)
Audition spaces can be booked via https://