We sent IdeasTap members Rose Pickles, Toby Parker-Rees and Nadia Emam to NSDF's International Student Drama Festival in Sheffield – a nine-day jamboree of global student theatre. Here's what they thought...
This year’s festival, the culmination of four years’ work, brought together the best examples of student drama, not only from Britain but from across the globe. It was a unique opportunity to watch productions, attend workshops and discuss drama with a cross-cultural cross-section of the drama community. Nowhere is there a more open and exciting platform for the exchange of ideas, this year particularly, with the international element.
The programme was incredible: nine days, each starting at 10 and often not ending until midnight, and with the Crucible bar and Noises Off (Festival magazine) office open until 2am, there was little time for sleep. Somehow we were kept going by the outstanding range of shows, workshops and discussions. Every moment was crucial. The mornings began with workshops followed by discussions of the previous day’s performances, then it was off to the first show of the day followed by another workshop, one or two more shows and finally the evening’s entertainment, which brought the whole festival together.
Throughout the day the Crucible bar and Noises Off office acted as a hub, the centre of the festival, where there was always an interesting debate in full flow. You can learn just as much from a chance conversation with a practitioner in the bar as you can from a workshop. The whole festival has a generous atmosphere where seasoned professionals and students drink side-by-side swapping ideas. It is a delicate balancing act taking advantage of all that is on offer, but one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in theatre.
I enjoyed parts of everything I saw at the ISDF (Zombie Haiku notwithstanding) and the workshops and discussions were fantastic opportunities. It’s a nice feeling when your cynicism is melted by sincerity – it doesn’t happen often, but it happened a fair few times in Sheffield.
That said, however, I do wish there’d been more of the off-key anti-theatre of Five Names – performance that felt complicatedly alive. I wrote a bit of posturing when I left university about how student drama allows you the freedom to experiment without having to bother too much about commercial considerations. And experimentation is what I want to see – reach exceeding grasp and all that.
I therefore have mixed feelings about DugOut’s award success. Although they deserved everything they got, they don’t really need to be at a student drama festival – they’re a perfectly competent semi-professional company doing solid work.
With Inheritance Blues they’ve assembled a Commedia dell’Arte troupe of stock characters for our era, and that’s something interesting and appealing. But it’s avowedly conventional, developed carefully within established rules and norms. This is why it works so well when it uses blues and folk music, and why it shies away from anything freeform in its jazz scenes.
It is a very satisfying show, and it deserves to do well in Edinburgh and the real world, but I think I’d have preferred to see something reckless or stupid. Something which definitely wouldn’t do well in the real world.
So – good stuff overall, but could do with more nonsense. And I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t get a chance to tell John Godber what an unpleasant piece of work Bouncers is.
Being at ISDF has really opened my eyes to so many different forms of performance art in its approach, development and presentation. I’ve become even more so aware of how the industry is changing so rapidly.
Most of us are (hopefully) fighting against the cuts, and going to see as much theatre as possible. SUPPORT THE ARTS! Wonderfully, there is more happening on the British art scene than ever and with the bonus of theatre tickets increasingly becoming cheaper (thank you, Michael Grandage), we should be immersing ourselves in as much as humanly possible!
This year we have been graced with the London 2012 Festival and the World Shakespeare Festival’s Globe to Globe: 38 plays in 38 different languages performed at The Globe Theatre. How fantastic that we can be exposed to so much culture. Thank you ISDF for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this global congregation: to share our stages, ideas and lunch with our fellow student artists from all around the world. There really was a true sense of embracement.
The productions at ISDF were so incredibly diverse; it was interesting to observe the styles and choices of theme from each country. I hate to think that theatre, like technology, fashion, media and so on, would eventually evolve to become so similar wherever you travelled. Are we in danger of materialistically becoming ONE? Steal a Tardis and let me know.
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