Final (Messy) Thoughts on NSDF17

Had fun. Ran out of clean socks. Wrote some stuff for Noises Off. It was good.

Met some ok people too: Lily James, Richard Tzanov, Kate Wyver, Phoebe Graham, Nick someone (??), Aenne Pallasca and Giulia Delprato. Also Eve Allin, Ben Kulvichit, Clara Potter-Sweet, Emily Davis, Lilith Wozniak, Nat Norland, Hebe Bartlett, Helen Morley, Lily Campbell and Flora Wilson Brown.

Favourite things I saw: Celebration, Pixels, Say It Loud, he she they, Swallow.

If you only want to read three things I wrote for NSDF: a sort-of letter to myself upon arriving at NSDF. Say It Loud review. Pixels review.

Kate Wyver did this really nice thing in her blog on NSDF where she linked to her favourite things that everyone else wrote so I guess I should do that too: Lily James on CelebrationPhoebe Graham on No Human Is IllegalKate Wyver interviewing Mark Shenton.

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A lil bit of controversy: Ghee Bowman wrote a column for Noff basically bemoaning the lack of classics at NSDF. Eve Allin already did a brilliant job with her response but I wanted to give it a quick go myself:

Joking about ‘unconscious bias’ towards new writers and devisers when complaining in a very David Hare-like fashion about the lack of classics is galling, especially considering the amount the phrase was used in the discussion about integrated and gender blind casting a few days before.
There is no such thing as ‘getting to grips with iambic pentameter’ when performing Shakespeare. You don’t need to say the lines like Olivier for the innate rhythm of the language to come out. There’s a reason why we don’t shout to BE or NOT to BE anymore: it’s because we know better nowadays.
I hope ‘exploring makeup for a Japanese Noh play’ doesn’t include yellowface or cultural appropriation.
The reason why there’s so much new writing and devised work is because if you’re going to pay near to a hundred pounds to submit a work to NSDF, the feedback is more valuable for new writing than for Shakespeare. I’m sorry that student theatre doesn’t have the budget anymore to build massive sets and have orchestras. We’re too busy paying off your generation’s debts.

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NSDF is a learning experience. Here’s what I learnt.

The Iconoclasts taught me about the importance of staging. Proscenium, traverse, all that shit: it matters. This sounds obvious, but this is a really obvious example of how changing the staging of a production makes it fail.

Say It Loud taught me that I don’t do enough to help refugees, that I’d rather give away my money than my time and that I really really want to put on a show where there’s a writer on stage writing during the show because it’s just really cool.

he she they taught me that I don’t know nearly enough about dance and I need to try and see more.

The discussion around Swallow made me reflect on how we campaign for trans representation in theatre. It also made me realise I’m guilty of using cisnormative language. This is the only show that made me cry. The representation of recovery from a mental health disorder is so beautiful and considered.

The cast of No Human Is Illegal taught me how fucking privileged I am to be white and middle upper class. I’ve been given a massive leg up in life and I’m simply not doing enough to help those who aren’t in my position. I’m a horrible person.

Hidden taught me that I need to be unafraid to go in hot and heavy on anything I see as problematic. Just because it’s a good play doesn’t excuse it. Am pretty glad that my Hidden review seems to have been lost in the ether because it was shambolic, frankly.

I’m still processing Celebration. I keep on reading new things about it and seeing parts of it from completely new angles. It’s so unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. My review doesn’t really do it justice: watch the show here.

Blackbird taught me that my knowledge of theatre is still very patchy. I’ve never read a Beckett play and maybe I would have enjoyed this more if I had. It also taught me that there absolutely 100% must be a line between critics and theatre makers (although that’s a horizontal line, not the vertical axis used in the metaphors of Miriam Schechter’s poem). There’s something awkward and horrible about reading a review of your own work, whether it’s positive or negative. If you haven’t read

Nothing is Coming, The Pixels are Huge was really fucking cool. Sci fi with no spaceships. I’d watch Star Wars if it was like this.

I didn’t talk about this in my Cognitions review, but I have bipolar disorder and found this play (about a mother with bipolar disorder) so unlike anything I have ever experienced that I didn’t even realise it was about bipolar disorder. I understand that we all have different experiences but to me was so unreal (not in a good way).

Sad Little Man was an intensely interesting experiment in gender and also apparently I really pissed the cast off with this review and got into an argument/heated debate with one of their friends on the last night.

Thick Skin is hard to explain without giving it all away but it won the Samuel French prize at the Fest so it’s going to be printed. Highly recommended reading.

Skellig. This was the one play that I really couldn’t stand.

Ordinary Days. I didn’t quite get round to reviewing this one. Woops.

Also, for what I hope will give you a general sense of my experience, some of my tweets from the Fest:

[read the responses to the above IF YOU DARE]

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