11 April 2017
It seems there's always one more thing to do, no matter how hard you try. Don't forget to celebrate along the way
Whatever people might say about you lot at NSDF, they can’t say you don’t try. I’m sitting here in the NOFFice at the end of one of the longest days I can remember, and it’s all thanks to you. Kate and I asked for your reviews, your thoughts, your jokes, your random observations, and so far you’ve delivered to an extent that is literally overwhelming. It’s why this is a bumper issue, packed with reviews, features, interviews and sketches of Chris Thorpe worthy of the National Portrait Gallery. So thank you.
But as with any effort, it’s not enough. We want more.
Because no matter how much we do, there’s always something extra that can be done. Something more that’s required of us.
In the brief hour that we had in Sunday’s discussion, we seemed to accomplish a modest amount in discussing diversity in casting. But as Helen Morley points out in her comment piece, we didn’t even mention disability access. This festival needs to do a lot more not only to improve access for people with all disabilities, but also to make every individual feel like this is a festival for them as much as anyone.
More to do.
Our centre spread focuses on Swallow, a play that accomplishes a huge amount. In Florence Bell’s review, she talks about how sensitively and effectively Stef Smith’s script presents mental health. It’s a show with some intensely moving and brilliant performances, directed and staged with an assured (if borrowed) minimalism, as we find out from Lily James’ interview with director George Rexstrew and the cast.
And yet, as Callum Kenny points out, casting a cisgender man in a trans part, especially in the context of the wider conversation about gender that is so prevalent at the festival, is problematic. Of course there are mitigating circumstances, as Callum admits, to do with the diversity of the casting pool available to a student theatre group. And George and his crew did try to find a trans person for the role.
We try. But still, there is more to do. We can do better.
In yesterday’s discussion of The Iconoclasts, Daryl Holden questioned writer and director Ben Price over the play’s use of Northern Irish history. He sets out his opinion on the matter here, as does Phoebe Graham. Whether you view it as culturally insensitive or broadsided satire, there’s perhaps a suggestion that, again, we can all do better, both in considering the broader context of things, and in making our points clearer.
And yes, even the Management Team and the Tech Team can do better, even though they send us haikus, challenge themselves to get round campus as quickly as possible – as documented by Bronwen Davies and Lucy Bird – and create the most luxurious of Hullywood signs for us NOFF editors to relax beneath. Because they are surely living proof that once you raise expectations, people expect more of you – and there’s no option but to rise to that challenge. So you’ll find your next Technician Impossible here.
Christ. It’s exhausting, isn’t it, all this effort and trying. It’s easy to lose perspective and feel that your best just isn’t good enough, and from there it’s a short step to questioning why we even bother in the first place.
What a blessing, then, it is, to have Celebration at the festival, a show that delivers a shot of joy straight to the heart and reminds us that it’s OK, necessary, essential to feel pleasure and happiness in each other and the world around us. Laughing and celebrating like that is just as important as pushing ourselves to be better and to make the world better. It’s why we try in the first place.
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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato