“Only ONE of you will make it”

Reflections on the messages we feed young artists

Setting: National Youth Theatre, August 2010. I am 17 years old and away in London for two weeks (!) to take part in the National Youth Theatre (NYT) training course. I am beyond excited! Bright-eyed and bubbling with enthusiasm. I get to meet and train with teenagers from all over the country who share my passion for theatre and performance. As much as I adore the warehouse next to Ashford International Station where I rehearse and perform as part of my hometown youth theatre – having successfully auditioned for NYT, I now get to train in the chic, ethereal Laban Centre in London for a fortnight and it feels wildly glamorous. After the buzz of our first assembly with all 200 budding actors, we are split in smaller courses and sent off into different drama studios to begin working in groups.

Enter D. D will be my course director for the next 2 weeks. I’m calling him D because this isn’t about naming and shaming him, but more – discussing the impact of the toxic attitudes that D represents within the arts. In the first workshop I actually appreciated training with D. He was to the point, instructive and honest. He got us out of our heads and into our bodies. We were focused. Yet as the days progressed, the clarity evolved into sharpness, the instructiveness became bossiness and the honesty grew more and more brutal. There were a number of moments that made me dislike D, but there are three I will focus on here – the last being my main issue.

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Eyes Closed, Arms Outstretched

Feelingthoughts on Ming Poon’s The Intervention of Loneliness. Friday 6th December at Ufer Studios, Wedding

Ming Poon’s performance The Intervention of Loneliness simultaneously asks us to consider disconnection in the world we live in and to take a chance to perhaps feel its antithesis. In the piece, Poon asks a room full of strangers to volunteer to come into contact first with him and then with each other – not through dialogue or discussion, but through touch – as they share the headphones of an iPod and slow dance together. As is written on the piece’s Facebook event page: “The Intervention of Lonelinessis a response to the systemic loneliness and human disconnection that we experience and see around us”.

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Finding Entry Points into Shakespeare

This article was commissioned by the Danish National Paper for Drama Teachers. 

What springs to mind when you think of Shakespeare? 

Maybe you imagine complicated and archaic plays; remembering school days and English classes where you were forced to decode the language, wondering all the while, “How is this relevant?” Or perhaps you think of something prestigious and academic; picturing upper-class theatre-goers and dusty, old university lecturers pontificating on some aspect of the text that you need a PhD in English to even understand. 

But it doesn’t have to be like this. From my experience, when Shakespeare is made accessible – when people, no matter their ability or background, are invited to discover their own connections to the stories and themes – it can be confidence-building and provide a rich starting point for further creative expression and ideas. Moreover, the way in which Shakespeare is taught to school students can impact their future relationship to theatre and classical texts. Continue reading “Finding Entry Points into Shakespeare”

Human Treasure

Thoughts inspired by group therapy and two works of Jérôme Bel: The show must go on at the Volksbühne (Großes Haus, Jan 2018) & Gala at Hebbel am Ufer (HAU 1, April 2017)

It’s over half a decade ago: April 2012. After having a very difficult first year of university, I sign myself up for one term of group therapy…and I end up staying for four.

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Men at Play

in Minefield directed by Lola Arias & made/performed by Lou Armour, David Jackson, Ruben Otero, Sukrim Rai, Gabriel Sagastume & Marcello Vallejo at the Royal Court Theatre (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, 2-11.11.2017)

An Argentine veteran of the Falklands/Malvinas war is telling the audience a story. It is a personal story, taken from his direct experiences of the 1982 conflict. As he explains, simultaneously another performer (also a veteran) uses plastic toy soldiers to reenact the narration. This is filmed by an onstage camera and projected live onto a screen hanging at the back of the stage. The veteran tells us that a group of troops from his regiment escaped one night to try to steal food from a nearby house. We watch the plastic toy soldiers demonstrate the journey, discover that the house was abandoned and load up a nearby boat with food. Suddenly, says the narrator, there was an explosion: someone had stood on a landmine on their return. All were killed. The figurines are in disarray. The narrator describes going to gather their limbs on his one and only woollen blanket. With tiny blankets, the toy soldiers show us this moment. “It was the only blanket I had, and I continued to sleep under it until the end of the war”, says the veteran. Continue reading “Men at Play”

Why Do We Create?

Thoughts inspired by Report from the Interior by Eliza Rescue Team. Hebbel Am Ufer (HAU 3, 25-26/10/17)

Why do we create?

There’s no definite way of answering this question. I know that. However, this is the question that was ringing in my ears when I left the theatre on Wednesday night, after having seen Report from the Interior by Eliza Rescue Team. Truthfully, I think I was asking myself that question because I was frustrated; I had got so little from the performance. Reports from the Interior seemed kind of cool and spacey when I discovered it on the Hebbel am Ufer website. It explored life in the abstract and considered the Mars One Mission. I liked some of the techno soundtrack. Some of the props were cool, like the animal masks. But I felt let-down by the piece overall. Continue reading “Why Do We Create?”

Capturing Queer Geographies in Performance

Exploring Frutas Afrodisíacas by Simon(e) J. Paetau, Jair Luna, Iury Trojaborg, Michaela Muchina and Laura Paetau at Ballhaus Naunynstraße (18-20.10.2017)

One of the reasons I loved Frutas Afrodisíacas is because I am fascinated in the area of theatre geography. This summer I read for the first time Alan Reed’s Theatre and Everyday Life (1993), and was struck by his notion (in the chapter ‘Orientation’) that we need to develop a geography of theatre as a counterpart to the already well-established study of theatre history. Continue reading “Capturing Queer Geographies in Performance”

The Courage to Stand

Reflections on Du Kannst Nicht Mehr Warten? (You Can’t Wait Anymore?) by Die Aktionist*innen at the Maxim Gorki Theater (Studio Я, 11 & 12 October 2017)

The lights go up and we see a young man centre stage, sat with his back to the audience. After a long pause, we notice that he is beginning to shake, almost vibrate. As it grows more and more intense – suddenly he collapses. He cries out in frustration and pain. His movements are angry and jolted, as he staggers to his feet. He is enraged. He attempts to stand on the stall he has been sat on. He falls. Again he tries. He fails. He yells. He tries. He’s furious. He falls. He just – cannot – stand – up.  Continue reading “The Courage to Stand”