Sunday, 7 July 2013

#NTCFest - Mobiles and rehearsals...

Written by Jessica Mulle, Jigsaw Arts Youth Theatre 

It’s amazing how much refining can be done when you really put in everything. I think I speak for everyone when I say this really is the hardest we’ve worked at something, and we have come such a long way – as performers, in our show itself, as a company and as people.

Performing at the National Theatre really is a dream come true for everyone. As a young person who aspires to be a professional actor, this is so much more than I would have dreamed of achieving at 17. Being told that we were to perform in the Olivier Theatre in front of 1200 made all our hard work and effort so worthwhile! Once we heard our result, our company knew that we had to rise to a new challenge. Working with the NT Connections directors has given us insight in what it is like to perform in a theatre of this scale. Talking to the NT directors about what technical elements we would love to include within the performance we have been astounded at the resources we have been offered. This has really opened our eyes to the scale of what we are performing on. Furthermore, having the opportunity to perform to the writer Jim Cartwright, blew us all away, it really was inspiring and so helpful to hear his insight.

The whole company loves Mobile Phone Show – it moves rapidly from hilarious to heart wrenching to poignant and the audience are swept along in this range of emotions. We feel so privileged to be working with the NT Connections team who have invested so much in us. Having the opportunity to work on such an amazing play with people I think of as family and doing something we love is incredible.

What I’ve enjoyed most about this experience is seeing our production blossom, friends and family who watched our original performance commented on how they couldn’t believe how much refining and polishing we had achieved by the time we performed at the Arts Depot. Once we had been notified of our success and impending performance at the Olivier Theatre this inspired us all to be even greater.  We knew we had more work to do to bring our play to such a massive performance space and we have all relished this and are proud of our achievements.

Mobile Phone Show includes a lot of chorus work which was unfamiliar to many of our group and was possibly the biggest challenge, certainly for me. We had to ensure that the choreography was perfectly timed and executed and work on building our stamina to stay on stage for the whole play; this has been very demanding and a large focus of our work. Overcoming these challenges and seeing our chorus work come together has been incredible and everyone really has put in so much (including our amazing directors!).

Bringing our production to the National Theatre is something incredibly daunting, yet unbelievably exciting at the same time! Certainly there’s nothing that I’ve achieved in my life that I feel so proud of and I can’t believe how lucky we are to be given this opportunity.

We really can’t thank NT Connections, Jim Cartwright and everyone involved in this process enough

Saturday, 6 July 2013

#NTCFest - My Journey to the Olivier Theatre

Written by REBECCA MILLER, Winstanley College

Since the first moment we received our scripts, the whole process has been a whirl of excitement and fun. From beginning at the start of the year, the cast has bonded into a tight knit of people, through sharing the joy of getting to Kendal to being told we’d made it to London. Since Kendal, everything took a step up. Rehearsals were infused with a lively beat instead of nervous energy and it’s all any of us can talk about. We’ve broadened our acting horizons in terms of practice techniques, such as projection practice on the field, ensuring we’re prepared to perform to over 1,000 people! We’ve focussed more on completely portraying the message of the play and doing such an emotional script justice, picking apart our lines and ensuring that poignant moments are done as well as they can be.

Actually going to perform on the Olivier Stage is an overwhelming thought – something I don’t think any of us have really come to grips with yet! It’s so exciting to think that we’re going to be performing on such a renowned stage, where actors who seem a million miles away have once performed. The experience to actually be part of a professional company for the first time for any of us is also enthralling – something any young actor only dreams of. To think that at the start of the year, we never expected to get to perform in London and were merely there for the experience and joy of the performance makes the position we’re in today so much more wonderful for us all.

The whole National Theatre process has been enjoyable, from making new friends to learning new techniques and actually feeling like – and being – a professional group of actors. We’ve been given an experience that is difficult to gain anywhere else as well as being able to see so many other groups perform and being exposed to all different kinds of interpretations. Not only on the broader scale, but on personal levels – for me, after our first performance, the reaction of the National Theatre representative was overwhelming because he was so amazed by what we’d managed to achieve in such a short space of time and his words of praise were something I’ll never forget.
Difficulties have definitely been found on long rehearsals, when the cast’s a bit tired and grumpy, but even then all it takes is a moment to appreciate the position we’re in before we’re back at it! For me, nerves especially really kicked in at Kendal as I think it did for everyone else, because it was our first time in front of an audience that we didn’t know and we just wanted everything to go right.

In the end, it’s all been like a bit of dream really. We’ve loved every minute; from the first read-through of the script to now actually having created and become our characters. The experience has been one I’ll never forget and I’ve cherished every moment!

See Rebecca perform in What are They Like? by Lucinda Coxan on Monday 8 July, Oliver Theatre

Friday, 5 July 2013

#NTCFest - We Lost Elijah by Ryan Craig, Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre, Northampton

Photo by Simon Annand (c)2013

Written by Jake Ward

I found most surreal, riveting and uniquely diverse about National Theatre Connections is discovering the links that it makes between all aspects of the theatre industry. We were given an amazingly rare opportunity as young people to work alongside up and coming playwrights, with the support and platform from a prestigious theatre like the National placing us at the heart of the creation of contemporary theatre.  Connections is so forward-thinking as it is a collaboration of young people, arts venues and staff, playwrights, directors, designers and technical teams, combining a variety of skills and experience to allow us to creatively take part in an opportunity that brings new pieces of writing to life.

I believe that what makes NT Connections even more exciting is the idea that texts can be performed in different dialects and interpreted and explored in different ways across the whole of the UK. This means that the Festival and the plays written for it act as a universal connection between all young people, as they explore relevant issues and themes, irrespective of who we are or where we live. This highlights that theatre is so important for young people, enabling us to express ourselves and actively take part in what is going on around us.

When rehearsing the play, what was immediately evident was the importance of an ensemble, giving the whole process a professional and realistic feel. This ranged from exercises which brought us together as a company, observing, learning from one another and offering constructive criticism, and working with our director to interpret the script and characters, and offer our own ideas. Rehearsals where all about exploring, and both physically and emotionally creating depth to the characters, whilst always developing and testing out character relationships and different interpretations to keep the piece engaging, energetic and fresh each time we performed it. Due to the complexity and difficulty of the varying interpretations of the characters and dialogue, we were continuously pushing ourselves; getting up and trying new things in order to allow the performance to progress and grow.

What I found most rewarding and challenging was exploring the layers to the characters and the language in the play. The story, although only one hour long, sees characters all experience their own individual journeys. It was important that we allowed ourselves to go on this journey and find out about all the different layers to our characters.

Moving the play from the rehearsal room to the Royal stage, and then into The Shed, has encouraged us to think carefully about the movement in the space and our character relationships. When performing it in The Shed at the National Theatre I know it will be an exciting climax to the Festival – a showcase to the UK of what has been achieved when young people, playwrights, venues and their teams, all come together and make inspiring and amazing Connections. 

Jake Ward played Elijah in We Lost Elijah by Ryan Craig on Friday 5 July, The Shed, National Theatre 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

#NTCFest - Don't Feed The Animals...

Photo by Simon Annand (C) 2013

When we first heard the news that Jo had entered us into NT Connections, we didn't exactly have high hopes. I mean, Dorchester Youth Theatre, in a national youth theatre festival? The odds weren't looking good. But we were extremely excited to be working towards such a big project, and were curious as to how other companies would perform what we quickly named "our play".

We first prepared for our performance at Thomas Hardye Theatre. A simple, traditional stage, it was end-on, so it was simply a question of putting together the play like we were used to. It was fun working through the bumps, finding out what scenes came to us naturally and what scenes we really needed to work on. Working on the final scene, with the entire company performing onstage at once, really brought us together; I can safely say that I love and trust every single member of DYT like family.

Of course, after our first performances, we then had to get ready for Plymouth- which, so far, has been the best day of my life. The stage was still end-on, but the seating was tilted upwards, so all the sightlines changed. We also had to find out how difficult the performance would be without an official backstage, but that was the least of our problems. The performance was the best we had ever done, and the whole day was so fantastic I can't put it into words. Everyone was so proud and pleased, and we all loved the whole experience.

Then came the day when we found out. "I hope you've all kept the fourth of July free," Jo said with a growing smile, "Because we're going to the National Theatre!" We screamed and sobbed with absolute joy- how many actors can say they've performed at the National Theatre? How many people can say they've done it when they were teenagers? We couldn't concentrate on anything that session- it was just a mass of highly strung, emotional teens who were all feeling the exact same thing.

We immediately started re-working the play so that we would be prepared for the thrust-stage layout. As we had re-worked already, it wasn't a big challenge; the problem was having our backs against the audience. For actors who have been taught from day one 'always face the front', it was hard letting go and actually having the confidence to turn away.

The whole company is so excited for the NT. We can't believe we got so far in the process with so many fantastic groups. The National will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it's all any of us can think about. From day one, people had said we could go to the NT, and we never believed it. More than anything, this has taught us to believe in ourselves, and to trust each other like a family.


Written by Roni Neale playing Missy in Don’t Feed the Animals by Jemma Kennedy

Dorchester Youth Theatre

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

#NTCFest - Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy

Photo by Simon Annand (C) 2013

Written By Alex Bird

Coming back to start rehearsals again was great, it was amazing to see the whole cast back together again for one last run at The National. After a congratulatory applaud from everyone for getting so far and a quick catch up we got to work. The new National Theatre space, The Shed, works on a thrust meaning it’s a lot more intimate and stripped back so a lot of the set would not come with us to The National. This also meant everything had to be re-blocked for the new stage. The challenge seemed daunting, having to re-work a show we were so used to minus the set; it was hard to imagine what the finish product would be. We are now closer to the show date than ever and the show feels at its best. The thrust stage means more reason to move and explore, which we didn't have the luxury of before. Also, by Jonathan Harvey ‘s wishes, we changed a few things we set before making the whole play feel more fresh and exciting. Truly this will be the best performance yet.

The National is really a space actor’s dream of performing in and with this being my second time taking part in connections, being here is all the more exciting. I even remember my director from Gargantua (By Carl Grose) saying two years ago “Even I haven’t been to The National” showing what a big deal it is. I think for myself it didn't sink in as quickly as it did for others. My big realisation was having Jonathan Harvey, The National and The Press coming down to see the show all come together. I really got to see how lucky we are to be where we are and how they cared for our show like they would any other professional show, it was a nice feeling as well as an eye opener to how big the project is. Quoting from The National I expect getting to the theatre will be like a military operation, everything planned and ready so it runs smoothly, but it will also be incredible standing on that stage for the first time and taking it all in. 

I have really enjoyed being a part of the show, working with a professional director and being back at Lost has been so exciting for me. What I most looked forward to with this play was the challenge of playing a gay character in the modern day and staging the fight scenes. Both of these new challenges have really helped me grow as an actor, amongst other experiences in this process. I had mixed emotions about the fight scene. I was always excited to try stage combat for the first time but as the victim of the assault I was always worried of possibly being hurt. Funnily enough it was I that did most the damage by not falling properly, which showed me how safe everything was and I didn't need to worry, but after a little more help from our fight director the scene was soon one of the best in the show. What I did find difficult was realising some faults in my speech and movement that needed work, but I am hugely grateful as I am able to grow and improve from leaving this show with knowledge of how to articulate and work in a space. I could go on and on about how challenging this play was but with each challenge was a success and I hope that will come across in our final performance.

With only a week to go I can only hope that this will lead me on to more discoveries into myself as an actor, but this experience has really helped me realise my potential and what I can achieve if I work hard enough for it.

Alex played Darren in Tomorrow I'll By Happy by Jonathan Harvey on Wednesday 5 July 2013, in The Shed, National Theatre