Much extend, very metaphor, wow

14 April 2017

Alex Prescot on the intensity of a week at NSDF, and whether that's a good thing


As I sit contemplating the week almost finished, the discussions of discussions and the moments of clarity clouded by casual binge drinking, I find myself thinking beyond the shows themselves and more about the make up of the festival. I also find myself wondering whether if I’d had more sleep, I’d sound less like a prick in this introduction.

It’s packed. It’s so fucking packed. It's felt like Edinburgh Fringe and I thought that was intense, but now instead of a month it’s all squashed into a week. It’s made me realise that the thing about that slight extra breathing space at the Fringe means you do have days when you don’t see shows, when you can just cook pasta and catch up on sleep and then wake up the next day ready for something else.

Not doing theatre allows us to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes, and also spend time with people outside the dramatic sphere, as that’s the world that our work is going to reflect. Unless it’s a play about actors, but if you want that just go and see The Play That Goes Wrong.

Instead, here we have a mental week in which everyone wants to talk all the time and eek out the critical in the everyday, when you’re having great chat about the hot guy in a show and someone new comes over (an “event” – thanks RSC) and transforms the heat from the guy into a heated debate about his role in the patriarchy. Much extend, very metaphor, wow.

Don’t get me wrong, I love NSDF. It’s crazy and brilliant but also concentrated and intense and sometimes I just don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t know whether we’re becoming more critical in seeing so much in such a short space of time, allowing us to actually have meaningful conversation, or whether this get lost in the metric shit-ton of sleep deprivation. When you enjoy a show but switched off for 10 minutes of it as you’re running on Costa Americano, is that a great leveller of actual quality (which I think ultimately we’re all striving towards) or robbing a show of the attention that it deserves, the attention that we owe it?

I found it so interesting when Christopher Haydon raised our role as audiences in the discussion yesterday. I think it’s true, that as theatre-makers you have to cast your audience and that it’s part of our role to try to diversify them. And I love that this is at the forefront of our thinking, but maybe if we’re analysing everything, both onstage and off, our gut instinct is forgotten. Call me old fashioned but gut instinct is bloody important sometimes and it’s hard in an environment where analysis is so heavily built into the programming of the festival to just fucking love something because you just… did.

I think these questions can be taken in two main ways: how we interact with the work that is here but also how the selectors initially programme the festival on Selection Day. Is it the responsibility of the festival to programme work that suits this style of critical analysis or the role of Chris Thorpe as chair to reach out for more emotional responses in the discussions? Or is it maybe as simple as there being fewer shows, or the festival being a day longer?

It’s repeated and repeated that NSDF is not, or shouldn’t be, the end: it’s the beginning of the discussions we need to carry into our real lives, and hopefully this article will be taken in that vein and isn’t just fulfilling a narcissistic desire to get printed in Noises Off before the end of the festival (if they only put this online, I swear to God…).

I just don’t know whether us seeing so much means that the conversations we’re having are more meaningful, or whether it means that we’re oversaturated and unable to view anything objectively anymore. 


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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato