9 April 2017
It's all about the joy and the challenge of the new at this year's National Student Drama Festival
Hello and welcome to NSDF17!
There’s a lot of new stuff to get our heads round this year, not least the fact that the festival has moved from Scarborough, the seaside town that’s been the Festival’s home for many years, to the University of Hull campus. Bye bye Scarbados, hello Hullywood.
But what stands out most is the quantity of new writing at this year’s festival. Out of the 14 shows that have been selected, 10 are pieces of new writing. That’s unprecedented, and it’s exciting.
New writing at the festival has never felt as important as it does now. Eleven years ago, when I first came to NSDF as a student, the world seemed far more stable. The centre-Left appeared to have won the political argument, the largest financial crisis in 80 years was still just a few lies on some spreadsheets, and Ukip and its supporters were considered a fringe minority. Progress was inevitable.
It was no utopia. As students, we were discontent and pushing for change – the festival has always been political. But the problems we were raging against were more abstract and structural. When students put down the Pinter and thought to tackle what might be considered the current state of the nation, they were more likely to turn to Simon Stephens or Jez Butterworth than themselves.
That’s all changed. The world is different, the threats are immediate, and there is an urgent desire to do something now. There’s no time to wait for someone to speak for us, we have to articulate out thoughts immediately, if only to try to make some sense of what’s happening.
In this, our first issue, Florence Bell talks to No Human is Illegal and Phoebe Graham talks to Say it Loud. Both are pieces of new writing at the festival that deal directly with the Syrian refugee crisis and our response to it. In describing how Say it Loud came about, director Josie Davies says: “I’m certainly not alone in feeling that I’m unable to do enough about it. So I guess the project was basically a reaction to inaction.”
That sense of knowing that something is wrong with the current situation, not being sure of how to deal with it but being aware that something must be done is reflected by Katie Arnell, the teacher at Leyton Sixth Form College who devised No Human is Illegal with her pupils: “The process that we went through in devising the piece was very much about exploring the students’ own admission of their naivety about this current and important issue, despite the fact that the students themselves come from such a diverse range of backgrounds.”
This is the power that new writing has. It gives people a chance to address immediate problems in the world they see around them and communicate their feelings – and possibly solutions – to a wider audience. It’s the start of a dialogue, both with ourselves in terms of our own thoughts and feelings, and with each other, in how we can act to create change.
New writing, dialogue and discussion are at the heart of Noises Off, this magazine that you’re currently reading. This is your platform. It’s created every day by you. It’s the space for whatever thoughts you have about the festival and the wider world, no matter what they might be. We want your reviews of shows, your opinions about what someone said in a discussion, the transcript of the argument you had in the bar. At the back of the magazine, you’ll find a blank page – this is where we want to put your pictures, your tweets, your jokes.
If you’re in the Tech Team, we’re going to challenge you with our daily Technician Impossible, but we also want to hear about what you do and how you do it. If you’re on the Management Team, we want to know how you are able to keep this festival running smoothly. If you just like the look of the magazine and want to do some design work, Nick Kay our art director wants to meet you.
You might never have written anything before. Don’t let that stop you. Try it. Do something new.
The new is often the unfamiliar. It puts us out of our comfort zone and into a place where we can really learn something about ourselves and what we’re capable of. That’s the opportunity that Noises Off, and the festival as a whole, offers you.
Moving the festival to Hull is a great thing, and not just because it means that festgoers will no longer have to traipse half an hour up a cold rainy hill and half an hour back down again to see a 20-minute show. It’s a great leveller. Everyone, no matter how many years they’ve been coming to the festival, is now in an unfamiliar and new place. We all get to start from the bottom and build our way to a consensus, a shared idea of what this week is, and what it tells us about the world we live in.
As Josie says on rapidly adapting and changing Say it Loud in response to daily news updates on the Syrian crisis: “It isn’t – and shouldn’t be – finished.”
I’ve never been so excited to see what happens next.
Send your reviews, thoughts and jokes to: [email protected]
Photo credit: Giulia Delprato