Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wilkommen to NSDF

The world is in catastrophic meltdown. The social-economic theories of the last 15 years have been exposed as gobbledegook fan fiction where the main character turns out to be an incompetent dragon who slays all the villagers and retires on a nice pension horde, a lifelong (apparent) virgin is dispensing advice to millions of fanatical followers about how best to prevent the spread of a preventable disease by not preventing it, and a woman has died from cervical cancer.

But! like a giant, black, monolithic rock (rock) rising up to smash against the tides of chaos, the National Student Drama Festival has been re-galvanised 358 days since it last died by the nomadic students who, like salmon, are drawn back to the seacoast once a year to do… things. Possibly involving mixed metaphors.

It’s a grand entrance but as you read this everything else around you will be trying as hard as it can to be grand, which might be slightly bizarre given that those who have been before will already know what to expect and so are likely to be unimpressed, while those that haven’t might well be using this paper to wipe away the tears of fear and anguish, so adding to the trauma with bright lights, sounds and directives is just going to make them twitch more. But then we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t like a show.

But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t care either. And we do care. About you. The Festival-goer, whoever you may be. Although in this case only if you haven’t been before and need some helpful advice on what the hell an SJT is and why you’d want to be in one. If this is you then you’ve come to the right place. Below is a comprehensive guide to anything, everything and nothing you need to know about the titbits of Scarborough and the Festival. For best results, tear out this page, put it in your pocket and carry it around with you so that you can reference it without warning.

Scarborough: A History

Scarborough is a town. It was founded in 1789 by a Yorkshire man with a boat and an eye for water. He lived here undisturbed for 75 years until the Victorians discovered the bay and established a tourist colony. Now its economy thrives on neon, cuddly toys and tourists who find Blackpool a bit tart. Enjoy itss dramatic bridge, take wistful walks along the beach, hell, spend a few ironic pounds trying to grab a cuddly toy with a metal claw. Just make sure that you respect this historic town and don’t patronise the yokels. To be honest though you’re more than likely to get a glancing sideways glance at Scarborough itself because most of your time will be spent shuffling around the major venues, which are, in molecular order:

The Ocean Room – Part of the Spa Complex, it is a big hall looking thing where shows take place. As is true for the majority of the venues. It’s also got a bar concealed behind the black drapes, which is revealed for the end of Festival party. Ooooh. It’s also a venue where the crew are rumoured to be proud of their speedy turn-arounds. 15 minutes is the record to beat from last year I believe techies…

SJT McCarthy – Both the SJT McCarthy and the SJT Round are located at the Stephen Joseph Theatre (or Ess Jay Tee for short) which can be found at the major crossroads in the centre of town and to the right slightly. By the main highstreet. Opposite that shelter for homeless trains. You’ll work it out. Anyway, the McCarthy is used for those controversial things called plays.

Grand Hall – The Stomach of the Spa Complex, this gaping chasm is used whenever the Kommandants of NSDF need to herd large groups together, typically opening ceremony gubbins, dance nights and the ever-controversial and bloody stupid pub quiz. The best thing I’ve seen in here year after year (I’ve only been here for two previous years) is the pyrotechnics show where techies blow up pretty much every stage pyro you can get in five minutes to Bond music. The date is announced later in the week and it’s frakking awesome if you like exploding things and fiiiiiire.

SJT Round – Theatre space in the SJT which isn’t round but square, the liars. It’s also the location for discussions, where the cast and crew from two shows sit there and take your abuse/compliments for an hour. These take place at 12pm every day and should be next in the list after plays for things to get to. They’re a chance for everyone to have a say and create a primordial soup of ideas for you to take away and think about during workshops, performing your own plays and writing NOFF pieces.

Potter – Venue at the University Campus which you get to by heading out of town and up the hill. And a little bit further up the hill. About 20 minutes from the Spa Complex if you’re playing it safe. You might have noticed that things are quite far apart. It can take half an hour to get from SJT to the University, which isn’t a bad thing because exercise sheds the pounds. If you’re feeling particularly physically perky you can try running up the cliff round the back of the Spa. If, however, you’re unfit because you drink and smoke more than you should then get a car. Befriend a person with a car. Steal a car. (Don’t steal a car). I’ve had a car here for the past couple of years and zipping around lickety split is worth the death stares from people in green t-shirts with blisters.

Clive Wolfe Auditorium – A New Venue! Sort Of! It’s an old venue that was knocked down and rebuilt, just for us! That’s probably a lie. More likely it was rebuilt for the students at the Uni who use it as a makeshift sport’s hall instead of the theatre it was re-born to be.

Holbeck – Theatrical space at the Uni with a steep rake. What?

Spa Theatre – The only venue that could conceivably be called a traditional theatre space which is why it’s reserved for the end of Festival Award’s Ceremony. It wouldn’t be student theatre if it weren’t breaking boundaries with staging and what not. Oh no, I tell a lie, the SJT is a reasonably traditional space. I only just remembered what it looks like.

Spa Complex – Not a venue as such, more the throbbing, quivering hub of the Festival, if only because it houses the Spa Bar. Don’t lie to yourselves. You’re arty students, the bar is where you’ll naturally migrate. Get up close and personal with people from shows, unwind after a hard day’s theatre with a class A liquid drug, eavesdrop on a conversation between two NSDF bigwigs (mugshots can be found at the front of the programme), laugh at the right point, get in there and bam! you’ve networked your first contact. Unless you’re under 18. In which case… err… sorry.

Tesco’s – It’s here. It’s 24 hours. It’s located on the road on the left in between the bridge and the SJT junction. Get used to it.

Vitadome – This is where these words are being written at this very moment, in the conservatory-fronted building on ceiling of the Spa Complex. In this place, the Noffice, Noises Off is written and printed every night. Right now it’s an empty place. Ten of us are desperately trying to cobble together an issue when there hasn’t been anything to write about yet. And we need your help. All of you. Fill up these empty seats, come in for a chat, write, please for God’s sake, write! I don’t want to beg but I will. Whatever’s on your mind, we want to read it. Don’t be nervous. This is your chance to state your opinion, respond to someone else’s opinion, argue that all opinions are flawed, or just make a knob gag. If you can’t write, draw. Do it for your ego if nothing else. It’s 24-hour caffeine-induced hilarity.

And if you start to panic, remember: your itinerary has been minuted to the hour on that plastic square hanging from your neck. If you start hyperventilating because you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing just check what it says and remember that your journey has already been meticulously laid out, so just lie back and ride the tide to your theatrical destination.

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