Lessons I learnt from NSDF:
- Calamity is a shared experience.
- Chris Thorpe should run international peace relation talks.
- What CMS means.
- The password to the NSDF taxi account.
- Cock jokes never get old.
Last week I had the privilege of being up in Scarborough working as a Deputy Editor on the magazine Noises Off for National Student Drama Festival. The Festival is a collection of 12 plays from universities all over the country. The week was packed. Both professional and up-and-coming theatre makers attended discussions, approached controversial subjects and collided in endless queues at a very busy bar. There was little sleep, lots of writing and many lessons learnt.
- Sensitivity is appreciated.
- I should listen to Wu Tang Clan.
- Crew for Calais need volunteers.
- You should get a mentor.
- Eating your lunch in a discussion about your play makes people think you don’t care.
On the last day when we’d finished all the copy for the print issues, I went to a workshop and found myself in a room with Chris Thorpe, 40 other students and three hours to make something. We made a show that will never be replicated and only half remembered. No one will have a complete view of it because we were all part it. There was a rough ground plan and some basic structural rules but essentially we hadn’t a clue. There was lying on the laps of total strangers, running and joining a whirlwind, whispering other people’s secrets into a storm of words.
I think that can be the best of theatre. It’s the community, the willingness to jump into something with a blindfold on, the freedom to not be afraid- of making a fool of yourself, of doing something wrong, of being excluded, and equally the openness to not exclude- that gives theatre the potential to create wonderful things.
- The secret to running a good theatre is running a good bar.
- Two of this year’s selectors are married and met at NSDF 15 years ago.
- Everyone should read ‘Do No Harm’ by Henry Marsh.
- A lot of Universities have never heard of the Festival.
- All good writers steal.
It was tougher than I expected to encourage people to come and write for Noises Off in between the massively busy schedule of workshops, shows, discussions and Bowie nights, and those who spoke up in discussions seemed hesitant to put their words on the page. But there were a few incredibly important articles written by students brave enough to share something deeper than an opinion or review. Two articles stood out for me. The first was Lily James’ piece on envy and the feeling of intimidation that is hard to escape at the Festival. The second was this open letter to the cast of Daniel, a piece of new writing about child pornography. The way the writer- who decided to post anonymously- described watching Daniel was as if it opened an old wound, but in a way that let it heal a little.
- A man once fell in love with a pigeon.
- If you talk to strangers at train stations you will learn new things.
- You should follow your instincts.
- If you care about something you should jump into it.
- It is hard but not impossible to fight against someone who wants to make a bingo hall.
In his opening speech at the closing ceremony, the day after the Brussels attacks, James Phillips said this on what he’d learnt over the week:
‘That groups of young people are prepared to gather together to try and imagine the unimaginable. That imagination is what saves us. That even when guns are firing and the bombs are going off, young people will come together and say as one there’s nothing we can’t imagine, nothing we can’t talk about, that we can connect, that imagination can skim a stone across an ocean.’
- It is never too late to change the direction of your career.
- When listening to the cast of Kiss Me, Kate doing their tech rehearsal whilst trying to lay up two issues you will be extremely grateful for your headphones.
- Everyone makes mistakes.
- You should celebrate small triumphs.
- Fear can push you in the very best way.
Stephanie Street, co-founder of Act for Change, gives out a few of the awards at the closing ceremony. Her three year old daughter, Asha, has been at the Festival all week as Steph has seen shows, taken part in discussions and been part of the judging panel. As Steph is speaking about the powerful female directors at the Festival, Asha reaches up for her from the front row. Calmly, Steph reaches down and picks up her daughter. She continues to speak, beginning to give out the awards. Asha then decides she wants to peer over the edge of the stage and Prasanna Puwanarajah, another judge, comes to kneel beside her to make sure she doesn’t topple over. Administrator and all round organisational-goddess Sarah Georgeson hands over Asha’s headphones and Steph puts them on her. Asha goes for a jog around the stage. Steph continues, talking in turn to Asha and to the two hundred people in front of her.
This is working motherhood. This is showing it can work. This is showing how a little help from a lot of people can make a world of difference. This is showing that women don’t have to be limited by a vagina and uterus, that actually women can do it all. This is maybe the most important lesson of all.
Title quote by Prasanna Puwanarajah.