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Reflecting: National Youth Theatre

It has been 4 weeks since my last day at National Youth Theatre: Saturday 26th August.

Why has it taken a month to write this blog? If I'm honest I would take longer to reflect but I want to let you know what I got up to, especially to those who helped me get there in the first place. 

National Youth Theatre to put it simply is the best month of my life, the training I got in those 4 weeks was intense, physically and mentally draining and has changed my life and career path for the better. I worked with 29 other actors/performers, a course assistant (Christine Gomes), writer (Josh Azouz) and director (Ned Bennett), all of whom I was completely blown away by. A part of me thought "Am I at the same level as this amazing group of people?" and then proceeded to think "No Jess, stop it! You auditioned, you got in, for a reason!", I have found it is quite common for performers to be hard on themselves. Coming from a classical singing background where any acting I have done is through music, the idea of devising, improvising, coming up with ideas was a daunting one... yes I have been in plays, musicals, and regularly teach drama and incorporate it in my singing teaching but this experience was something very exposed and new, I had to trust the process and free myself up to the idea of letting myself go, try new things and look daft. When I did just that, oh how amazing it was! 

The actors who were in my group "Team Ned/Wooha" were very much individuals with their own interesting views, experiences and characters, as a group we clicked and I could ring any one of them up tomorrow. I learnt from each and every one of them, together we spoke about challenges we face and came up with the most extraodinary piece of theatre. I say we came up with it but how it worked was, the director and writer would get us to work together or individually on a given brief and from what we created that inspired Josh Azouz to write the script. It was incredible to have Josh there because what he did was take our ideas and develop them, complimenting each other and blending a story together. Our piece of theatre was rather peculiar, interesting and hilarious, it was based on Queen Victoria and Boy Jones who was a boy that broke into Buckingham Palace. It was a mutual decision that we would focus the story on their relationship and love for one another, of course what with Queen Victoria having her royal status there was no way that they were going to end up together but the journey in which they went on emotionally was deep, funny and sometimes rather disturbing. There were points in the play where the audience didn't know whether to laugh or be shocked, this taught me a lot about how you may go about writing a piece. I had the opportunity of being the musical director for the piece which involved composing music, rehearsing the cast and being creative, it was the cherry on top of the cake for me... the singing sounded fantastic and was enhanced by four actors who played instruments, it's amazing what you can do with two violins, a cello and guitar. Gorgeous. 

As it happens, the whole National Youth Theatre Epic Stages experience has inspired myself and another cast member to co-write a piece of theatre on a subject that we feel so strongly about and we have involved other member that also would like to explore these views. I am being ever so vague because I don't want to give too much away, in addition, it is also quite a controversial subject that is not confronted enough. Woah.. I made it sound ever so serious then! Don't worry, we are going for a light-hearted approach. 


Back to the course. One of the most inspiring days was a physical theatre workshop where we worked with Kane Husbands who runs 'The Pappy Show' in Vauxhall, London, in that workshop we explored how movement can enhance a piece of theatre. I felt so insync with the rest of the cast, we did a movement called "flocking" where we all move together following the person at the front, the person at the front changes when the group go a different direction. Once this flow of movement was established we started incorporating actions and emotions, each small group reacted to another. I took so much from that day and was very inspired by Kane Husbands teaching, "you do you" was what he said a lot and it is so true. No comparing, just do you. The workshop tied in so well with the work that we did with Ned Bennett. There was one exercise we did in pairs, now this is going to be hard to explain, we came up with four perspectives for the other person (for me it was Boy Jones) and we looked up and down our partner visualising the perspectives. Next we stepped closer to one another and looked into each others eyes, I saw Boy Jones' past, present and future, it was almost as though I were seeing it as a film. This went on for a while and we next went into moving around the space, reacting to the other persons decisions, then physical contact was introduced which allowed for us to break through any boundaries and the whole time I was Queen Victoria and my partner, Boy Jones. This exercise was INTENSE and I don't think I quite doing it justice, it required absolute focus, committment and no inhibitions. Our last move was a final hug and to say this was emotional is an understatement... I think what I am trying to express is an outer body experience!! 

It will take me a long time to fully digest the month that I had with National Youth Theatre, and I know that from now it is a new chapter for me. I have met fantastic people, learnt so much and challenged myself in areas I couldn't have even imagined. I feel proactive and inspired for the future. Watch this space :) 

Thank you so much to those who have supported and continue to support me. 

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