Off to Neverland

Off to Neverland

13 April 2017

Kate Wyver demands we're given the space to play

“Kids you know- they’re the only ones who use language properly.” - Josh Overton, Sad Little Man

In the previous issue of Noises Off, Ghee Bowman suggested that student theatre is ignoring the classics, and focusing too much on the new and experimental.

In Wednesday’s discussion, Chris Thorpe brought up the idea of "cleverness" and how that compares to "knowledge". I think Bowman is looking for a traditional idea of cleverness, where the intellectual reigns and where everything ties up neatly. New writing provides a platform to adapt those old ideas of "clever", and responding to the immediate world around us – as so many of these shows have done – develops knowledge.

Bowman asks, is that what "happens in your university?” Is this wacky, unstructured madness that we learn? 

I wish.

Actually, a lot of university courses are stuck facing the wrong way too. This stuff? We’re growing these ideas in parks late at night, in the graffiti on toilet doors, in drunk 3am conversations and on sofas wrapped in blankets. We’re developing them in newspapers and play-parks and shopping centres and lunch queues and refugee camps and in front of the TV and behind the person who’s getting the attention and in between the breaks of our two jobs and studies. We’re making them in love and in laughter and in sadness and in confusion and in anger and in photos and on Facebook and you know what? In our own time.

Bowman quoted productions of Medea and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui that had struck him at previous festivals, but Daniel, The Beanfield and I Can’t Breathe will stick with me far more than many productions I’ve seen that were written by men who have been dead for longer than I have been alive.

Every show has flaws, and yeah, some of the new shows at NSDF this year have holes big enough that you’d fall right into them and keep going for a week. But fuck that, because these shows have been stuck together with passion and effort and ideas, and if the artists choose to abandon plot or character or dialogue, let’s allow them that freedom. Look at what happens when you give them the space to play – you get the joy of Celebration, the emotion of Sad Little Man, the sincerity of No Human is Illegal and the technological genius of Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge.

Maybe some of these shows won’t have a life past this festival. But maybe some of them will still be talked about in 50-years' time. Maybe they’ll inspire someone to develop something that is talked about in hundreds of years' time. Maybe the most they will be is a liberal clap on the back. Maybe we’ll learn something new. Maybe we’ll just have a party.

In the discussion on Wednesday, Ben Kulvichit from Celebration said that whether or not their play has achieved its aim of creating an hour of joy, “we’re trying”. As cuts increase and the world seems to care less about theatre (or as the team from Pixels suggest, robots will be taking over soon anyway), give us our space to play. Let us try. If we decide to revive the words of a dead white man, let us do it on our terms, but if we decide to discard them and make something new, stop putting us down and let us run with it.

Let us read widely and let us YouTube broadly. Let us analyse deeply and let us surf haphazardly. Let us focus or let us have 50 tabs open at once. Let us experiment. Let us do it our way.

This is our time, and NDSF is our festival.

Let us value the young voices. Let us not grow up yet. Let us try.

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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato