The first show I brought as student to the festival was a series of short Samuel Beckett plays that lasted over 3 hours and we played east coast hip-hop and Madchester tunes at full volume between the short plays- I think in large part to wake the audience up. The judges walked out half way through.
Welcome to the NFL kid. It is not the last time critics have left one of the my shows!
Nonetheless the whole thing was so thrilling an experience that the festival wormed it’s way into my heart and never really left. I would take another show and become a selector. I did 12 years in the end I think. That’s a hell of a lot of 4.48 Psychosis seen over the years: I watched 3 in different towns in a single week once.
I’ve seen the best theatre I’ve ever seen at NSDF. Hand to god. I’ve sat and wept through a musical directed by a 20 year old Jamie Lloyd and saw a Rash Dash show that made me certain I’d been doing it all wrong up to then. I’ve seen future movies stars perform in gyms turned in to hand-made theatres, and watched students from all over the country take risks and mean it in a way that most of the theatre industry has forgotten how to do.
And I’ve met my future collaborators here every single time.
The first time I was here I met new collaborators in the other student companies that last even now twenty years on: actors, writers and other theatre makers that I continue to work with, to support, to be supported by.
Last time Slung Low was at NSDF- five years ago I think- we held open auditions for two roles in a new version of Moby Dick by James Phillips performed on a floating burning set in the middle of a dock in Leeds. We cast Nima Taleghani and Angus Imrie from an unbelievably talented room. Two finer braver actors you’d ever have the pleasure to meet. And artists who are always on the top of my list whenever I am thinking of doing anything worthwhile.
So when I heard that our old friend James Phillips was directing the festival we immediately offered all that we had in support. Some of the team at Slung Low haven’t been to the NSDF (we’re coming en masse, with our double decker bus, so we’re all in). And they wanted to know what was so special about it: I mean quite reasonably they argued that you can see great theatre and meet exciting artists without having to relocate to Leicester for the week and keep a schedule of early up, late to bed, and heavily regulated meal breaks that is more in keeping with military training.
And I explained that what NSDF offers that no one else does as well- and what I’ve been missing in the years that I’ve been away recently- is community. In a world where life decisions that aren’t immediately about self-reward are suspect, where customer is king and self-preservation the order of the day, NSDF is where people who care about the same thing, about performance, that coming together in a room with other people to think on it all is fundamentally a worthy endeavour, meet to discuss, to applaud, to criticise, to learn. It’s like church but without the problematic dramaturgy. It’s a place to go to be with other people who share the suspicion that this theatre thing *might* not be a complete waste of time, in fact it might be the only way to live your life. And whether you’re interrogating that thought for the first time or for the 2000th, to interrogate it with others around eleven of the most exciting theatre shows out there, in the company of future friends and allies, well that is the very thing to be alive isn’t it.
I cannot wait to return to NSDF. I cannot wait to meet you all. To chat. To applaud. To learn. See you in Leicester.
Alan Lane, Slung Low