Dami Olatuyi, Young Journalist, on Day 2 of Connections at the NT
Maybe, it’s time to release the belief that the theatre is a dying form of entertainment that is suited only to the old middle aged white couples of this world, because Connections at the National Theatre is here!
Connections is a project which encourages teenagers around the country to put on their own productions of written scripts. Fear not older generation, Connections does not seek to remove from you from the theatre, but only to introduce it to the younger generation, and give them a national platform on which to perform. What I saw young people do tonight, and what they have been doing for months is so exiting and dynamic that I was proud to be a young person, and excited again by theatre.
|The Ritual, Rotherham College of Arts & Technology. Photo: Simon Annand|
I saw two plays tonight, (Little Foot and The Ritual) by two drama groups from West Lancashire and Rotherham, incorporating young people who were between 13-19. I was also fortunate to see some of the rehearsals, interview the actors and directors and see some of the background to the whole production.
Impressive was the standard of the finished plays, but more important was the dynamism and creativity that got them there. Tired and hungry, the cast of The Ritual decide to ‘top and tail’ scenes rather than do a complete runthrough of the play. They set to work immediately, and reveal the opening scene, which is a fast paced, wordless and brief introduction of the characters. Denny Smith, the director, claims that “Acting is not about talent, but about telling stories”, he later reveals some of the techniques he uses to continually tweak their performance such as ‘buzzing’ and spatial arrangement. Focus is all about bringing energy up, down, on and off stage.
But this is a dynamic rehearsal and the actors themselves integrate themselves into the directing process; they ask questions, make their own suggestions, and even complain when asked to do something repeatedly. They’re laughing and having fun, imposing their relaxed style on theatre. Enjoying it, but taking the performance seriously. Next, the actors reveal 9 months of character building and rehearsals. Talking to them, they agree that young people don’t appreciate theatre as much as film, but are all aspiring to become West End actors, so perhaps that’s going to change.
The Connections festival has given birth to such creative energy. A large portable rehearsal space has been constructed on a balcony, while down below, other young people, from an entirely different organisation perform their own production on a colourful stage in the drizzling rain, all cranes, harnesses and loud music.
In the evening, both plays filled the 300 capacity Cottesloe Theatre with a multicultural, multiaged, multigender audience, and held our attention: Little Foot with its story about what might happen if 5 teenagers spent the night in a South African cave, and The Ritual, with its characterisation and striking sound effects.
I really don’t know what it was, but something got me really exited about theatre again. It could have been the fact that the writers of each play were invited to come up on stage and thank the audience for their presence, it could have been the free novelty photobooth in the foyer, or perhaps it was the wandering Romanian musicians with their continuous renditions of ‘Upside Down’ by Paloma Faith. Seriously, there was something exciting going on around the National Theatre today, and I think it was to do with the creative exuberance of youth.