Don't want to miss a thing (again)

22 April 2019

Sam Ross sums up NSDF '19, in dialogue with himself

“This week has been by far the best time I’ve had all year.”

I feel a little wary towards notions of the ‘best time’. Not least because of shows like Bost-Uni Plues, which critique marketing spiel like ‘the best three years of your life’.

That being said – yes, the 2019 National Student Drama Festival has been by far the best time I’ve had all year.

“I’m sad I didn’t get to see more. […] There’s a debate to be had about making sure that audiences and performers alike get an equal opportunity to sample all the work of the festival.”

Unlike last year, I was actually able to catch all of the shows this year, in my capacity as critic with Noises Off (the trick was to stick to my show-watching route). It’s been interesting however to hear from the various student performers and artists for whom this has been an issue. One friend of mine, Flora Wilson Brown, found it especially difficult to see many shows, as both a performer in Magic Hour: The Murder Mystery Disco! and the writer of TANYA. In essence, there’s still need for a conversation about how to ensure audiences at NSDF can see as much of the work as they can.

“It’s been a real pleasure to mingle with such an excitingly talented crowd of individuals. […] Most of all, I have made so many wonderful, talented and (hopefully) lifelong friends.”

I was most excited this year to be reunited with the wonderful theatre friends I made both at last year’s festival and since then. It feels so great to catch up with those from student and professional circles again, and also to meet others who’s work I greatly admire. I have felt so fortunate and humbled to talk (sometimes only briefly) with playwrights like Timberlake Wertenbaker, Simon Stephens and Jon Brittain. I loved chatting with Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland of RASHDASH about creating physical moments on stage; with Helen Monks and Matt Woodhead of LUNG about the grind of transcribing verbatim text; with Elin Schofield of Footprint Theatre about establishing a theatre company. But I’ve equally cherished my conversations with the insanely talented student artists at the festival: Amy Crighton of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing; Bea Udale-Smith of Pigfoot Theatre; Dan Sanders of ARE YOU STILL WATCHING; and many others besides.

And of course I cannot write about friendship without mentioning the incredible amazing group of writers that I’ve worked alongside in the Noffice, and our outstanding editors Florence Bell and Naomi Obeng. They have been the most wonderful companions throughout the course of this festival, and I love them all.

“The festival has not been completely perfect. There have been setbacks and mistakes over the course of the week.”

I should be aware of this from last year, and yet it still stings when setbacks and mistakes happen. What I’ve learnt however is these feelings are usually temporary. The ones which stay with us we learn deeply from.

“And of course I’ve loved the epic and intimate moments of connection throughout the festival.”

From the joyful, euphoric and stupidly fun collective dancing of the Magic Hour gang (the entire playlist is certified bangers), to the warm intimate moments of connection in the carbon-neutral storytelling of How To Save A Rock. From the introductory poetry of Nima Taleghani that roused the whole audience to its FEET, to the informal friendly discussions with friends and artists over potatoes (YET AGAIN) at the Ramada.

“I really don’t want this to end. I feel deep anxiety that I have not done everything.”

Another thing that hasn’t changed from last year. This year I definitely felt it more keenly writing for Noff. I would place my value in the number of reviews and thinkpieces I managed to write in each successive issue. I wished I had more time to write in between shows and discussions.

There are still so many conversations left unexplored. About social mobility and the regions. About the extensive uses of verbatim audio/transcripts in theatre. About the value of fun escapist shows in contrast with issue-based pieces.

“I did create the meme of the day though.”

Yes I did.

“And when we all leave Leicester on Saturday we’ll all probably feel a pang of deep sadness, a lament for this all too brief annual communal gathering.”

Oh I certainly did. I miss everyone so fucking much.

In the words of the Ana├»s Mitchell musical Hadestown, this annual communal gathering makes us “see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is.” The ideas, conversations and friendships that arose from this week showed us a glimpse of wider possibilities that have the potential to remake the world anew together. Running around the Curve on Friday night to say my farewells therefore felt desperately painful.

But there’s always next year.

“I will definitely be coming back next year though. I can hardly wait.”

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Read Sam's article from last year here.


@noffmag / [email protected]rg.uk

Photo credit: Beatrice Debney