|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