Crammed into Cassie’s Citroen C4 on the M1 (northbound), I had no clear idea what the next ten days would have in store. I’d only heard about this trip t’north, minus my own immersion into the ‘close-knit’ C4 community, about a week or two previously – Cassie having mentioned that the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) in Scarborough had reopened applications for its technical team. Not owning any previous experience with theatre ‘tech’, I could have responded with polite, restrained curiosity towards this news, thereby ensuring healthy blood flow to my lower limbs, which were now fighting for space with Beth, James, rucksacks and Caitlin’s premier front seat. Alas, this wasn’t to be. Instead (after circulation won out) I spent hour-after-hour wheeling large, ambiguous metal cases, carrying obtrusively long metal poles, awkwardly climbing tall metal ladders, and ‘focusing’ lots of oddly-named metal lamps, which made me pretty grateful for a comfortable bunk bed (first floor) at the end of the day. On top of that, I learned a thousand new things, helped facilitate some incredible theatre from around the country, and spent time with some of the most welcoming and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’m now interested in careers in the theatre industry and aim to become more involved with the tech crew at Sheffield Uni.
Whilst at NSDF I got the chance to help out with two shows created by students and graduates from Sheffield. Daniel by Footprint Theatre, and Departures: A Song Cycle by Joe Bunce and Matt Malone, both of which left lasting impressions on me and together picked up around 8 Judge’s awards at the end of the festival. Set on a station platform, Departures highlights the diminished sense of community in our modern lives through the awkward conversations of passengers waiting for a delayed train. We know strong communities are a crucial part of a fulfilled life and ‘7 Reasons Why Theatre Makes Our Lives Better‘ talks about how theatre (shocker) can help build them, by bringing communities together and evoking valuable new perspectives. Both these shows were first performed at the Theatre Delicatessen on Moor Street, and, this being a Sheffield-based blog, I’d like to encourage people to go and see shows there, as well as at other theatres around the city.
The first paragraph was designed to encourage people to take opportunities, even if it might make more sense to decline them. One opportunity I took at NSDF that was especially out of my comfort zone, was attending a workshop called ‘Writing For Performance’. To my dread, Chris Thorpe who was leading the session announced we would use the last 30 minutes to write something of our own… and then read it to everyone. With “why do you do this to yourself?” on a self-conscious loop around my reluctant brain, I seriously considered sneaking out. Yet I went through with it and it turned out to be quite a positive experience. I managed a short poemy-prose thing inspired by a moment in Departures that I loved, namely when 8 of the characters sit in a circle on the platform and extol, in magical harmony, humble ingredients of daily life. This is what I came up with:
The windows and walls, ceilings and floors
Drop away, evaporate, diss-apparate
Leaving us all naked on raised epiphanic velvet.
Frantically fleeting, yet oh so fulfilling,
I want it to become myself,
Hold my-self in this community of minds.
This is why we come to these dim places –
To explore where no external light can reach.
For something primal to be evoked
Not some prison to be preached.
Freedom from our enforced identities
Flowing through each other’s entities.