Click click click, and coast

9 April 2020

Day 5 and workshop fatigue has truly set in, says Issy Flower

Workshops. Such a calm, pleasant word, conjuring up images of timid little craftsmen crafting child-surrogates from camphor wood. And so, I assumed NSDF’s online program would be: less intense than its real-life counterpart, able to enjoy with a cup of tea, and tailored so I would only want to go to one or two.

Oh, reader, how wrong I was.

This week has been a ruthless baptism of fire that makes me wonder just how on the go and manic it is in normal years. I am drenched in sweat. I palpitate.

I have spent hour upon hour watching workshops, gleaning every crumb of knowledge I can from beneath the feet of the various people who’ve come in, wincing when they asked people to introduce themselves, debating whether to turn the camera off or awkwardly leave it on and try and react correctly. I have a notebook thrumming with ideas and concepts and personal opinions and jokes. A hundred tiny annotations reading ‘EMAIL EMAIL EMAIL’. It’s like running a mental marathon.

And then, of course, there’s the FOMO. Due to a rubbish post-Corona sleep schedule I missed all of Sunday’s workshops and have spent the ensuing days kicking myself over it. It is, I think, the residual desire to push push push that comes from uni academically and on the drama scene. The sense that, worst case scenario, everyone else will be infinitely ahead of you and if you don’t grab onto each and every opportunity you’ll be sunk. 

That fear strikes me now. That if I don’t absorb every eyebrow raise and joke from the participants I’m putting myself at a distinct disadvantage. Which is silly of course, but not entirely invalid.

There is an extreme wealth of knowledge being given to us for free this week. A kind of knowledge we might not have the time or resources to access again. The sheer spread of talents and experiences on show is too good an opportunity to pass up, and so we feel like we should be taking advantage of it as much as possible. It’s certainly more workshops than I would’ve had access to in the festival proper, and I’m sure that’s the case for pretty much everyone. The compression has helped people get more feet in the door than on a normal occasion, but the pressure cooker environment of the hour-long slot means that about a hundred feet and hands are clamouring for recognition at any moment. It’s an intense experience on top of the intense experience the world is going through, which, as anyone would tell you, is too much intensity even for the most dramatic of us.

So, if you, like me, are getting a bit of workshop fatigue, don’t worry. There’s still a good chunk of time to go. Don’t feel you have to go to every webinar, or put a question in the chat, or do anything other than listen and learn. NSDF is as it always has been: for us.

So, shape it for yourself and don’t get overwhelmed.

There’ll be more workshops next year.

@noffmag / [email protected]

Photograph: Beatrice Debney