15th October 2018

Our Connections group have been accepted into the National Theatre Connections festival for the  forth year running, and we are just thrilled! I feel this is such a special thing to be a part of and not only gives our young people some wonderful experiences, but Glen and I get wonderful experiences as directors as well.

 

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WHAT IS CONNECTIONS?

Connections is a nation wide festival run by the National Theatre, that celebrates young actors and new writing. 300 youth theatres and groups are picked to take part – and we are lucky enough to have been picked again this year. Connections supply the groups taking part with 10 brand new plays to read and choose from, often tackling important and hard-hitting themes, written especially for young people.

Each group gets to perform at their own venue and at a larger regional venue. For us this is Norwich (The Garage or The Playhouse – both are a partner theatre). 10 groups (one of each play) are then chosen to perform at the National Theatre in London. This festival is not a competition, and plays are chosen to represent the every area of the country.

So far we have not had the chance to perform in London, however this does not matter, as our young people get the opportunity to perform in Norwich, in a professional theatre, on a big stage – which I believe is such a fantastic and special opportunity for them. In the past we have performed at The Garage – a wonderful space that can accommodate different staging ideas (last year we did ‘When They Go Low’ in the round). We will find out soon which theatre we will be in this year.

Another part of this wonderful journey is that the director from each group taking part has to attend a directors weekend, where they can learn more about their chosen play, speak to the playwrights and pick up new ideas, skills, exercises and techniques.

I have just come back from this years directors weekend – and it was another brilliant weekend! I met some wonderful directors and we shared ideas and discussed our plays with one another.

I also attended many workshops which are put on over the three days.

‘Directors Toolbox’ was a great workshop to brush up on my knowledge – reminding me of exercises I haven’t done in a while but will bring back into the rehearsal room.

‘Designing a show’ was fantastic – I learnt some secrets on how set designers create set, and as our workshop leader said ‘once you know, you can never un-see it’ – which proved to be true when I went to see a show that evening! In that workshop I created a model box for a show, using set design ideas we had just been taught. I hope to use some of these set ideas in future shows.

 

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(This is Phoebe from Ardclough Youth Theatre in Ireland. We got the chance to work together last year, and again this year.)

Saturday consisted of spending the full day with the playwrights of our play, and an established director (and other group leaders that are doing the same play as us) – talking through many elements of the play, as well as getting some scenes on its feet to workshop ideas.

Our play this year is ‘Class’ by Lajaune Lincoln and Ben Bailey Smith and we were working with director Roy Alexander Weise. This was a great opportunity to ask the playwrights any questions we had about the play, characters, and plot points. It was great to speak with our playwrights and hear their thoughts and feelings on characters, and the play and to see their passion for the play. Roy was a fantastic person to talk to as well, really making it clear that at the forefront of our work should be the young people – and making them shine. It really does help having a day like that to get all of your thoughts about the play into perspective, and put you on the path ready to go!

 

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(from left to right: myself, playwright Ben Bailey Smith, Director Roy Alexander Weise, playwright Lajaune Lincoln)

 

Sunday was another really valuable day. In the morning we went to a panel discussion with four directors about directing new theatre. They gave great tips on how to tackle new plays if you are struggling.

After that was a Masterclass with Lindsey Turner, who did a rehearsal session with a group of young people – showing us different exercises that work in the rehearsal room. It was brilliant to see the way she worked, as well as seeing techniques bought to life with young people, instead of just reading or talking about them.

As you can tell – a lot is squeezed into three days at the National Theatre! This directors weekend is so beneficial to myself and Glen, we come away with so much, and are always keen to get going on the play! This in turn really benefits the young people, which is the main goal.

As I said, our play this year is ‘Class’ written by Ben Bailey Smith and Lajaune Lincoln. The group will do a read through of the play after half term, and then get stuck in to rehearsals for it. Our first few weeks will consist of playing around with different staging ideas, to see what works – and encouraging our young people to show us some of their ideas.

 

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Keep an eye on Facebook and the website for when we will be performing this.

One last this – the Connections group are doing a showcase this week ‘Connect’, suitable for ages 14+. Tickets are only £5, come and check it out!

Thanks for reading!

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