Ken-Friends Bursary Winners Reports 2004

Claire Flynn
Lisbrun, Northern Ireland

I am delighted to inform you of my experience with the National Youth Theatre London. I jetted off on Sunday 15th August with so many pre-conceived expectations, but nothing could have prepared me for the wealth of knowledge, skills and overall experience I gained.

I had the privilege of working with the very talented Theatre Director Guy Hargreaves and Assistant Director Stephen Daly. Throughout the two weeks Guy and Stephen focused on the importance of trusting your fellow actors. We worked as quite a large ensemble of twenty-five, yet got to know and work with each individual. The high level of co-operation, dedication and talent within our ensemble was incredible. Training was vigorous, starting at 9am and working to 6pm with each day a continuous learning process where I gained a new insight into many different disciplines and had the opportunity to work with a range of directors and coaches on skills such as stage combat, vocal skills, back to basics acting and how to become an animal or creature on stage.

The two weeks training concluded with a performance incorporating choral singing, a fifties choreographed office sequence, and a 'circus of freaks' show. We aimed to engage our audience in a number of ways and used warmth, laughter, poignancy, empathy and shock to play with their emotions.

The National Youth Theatre developed my overall passion for performing with and without an ensemble. I have gained greater confidence in improvisation skills and acknowledge the importance of mental and physical discipline needed within acting.

I am grateful for the financial support received, without it I could not have attended this course in London and benefited from the buzzing city, the fantastic performers I have worked with and the friends I have gained.

Ruth McKee

Lovable Rogues and the Best Pizza in Italy in the Piazza Santa Margarita

Mask wearing pantomiming court jesters took over Piazza Santa Margarita, Venice on 30th August. A state sponsored rally? A clown convention? Yet another carnival tourist trap? In fact the pandemonium in the square was the final product of four weeks of mask making, improvising, acrobatics, fencing, dancing and signing that are the crucial components of any Commedia Dell'Arte performance. Venetians laughed and tourists stared as the participants in this years VeneziainScena Commedia Dell'Arte International Summer School, capered over a raised wooden platform. Performing terrifying feats of bi-lingualism, daring acts of acrobacy, and some really quite atrocious signing, the 22 performers, (in three separate plays) dazzled Venice's bustling Main Square.

Commedia Dell'Arte is a European theatre style that relies as much on physicality and slapstick as it does on the powerful set of lungs necessary for being heard over the hustle and bustle of the street. Lovable rogues and buxom servants with the odd star-crossed lover thrown in for good measure, populate commedia stages. Regardless of the scrapes the characters end up in or the mischief and mayhem they get up to, a commedia play can be depended upon to culminate in a bit of a good, old-fashioned song and dance.

An incredibly rich form of theatre, Commedia uses any and all performative devices possible to impress and entertain. The long hours of rehearsals (sometimes without even a siesta break!!!) and the challenging technique classes could be tough. But who can complain when learning how to back flip off a 5ft5" high stage, or learning to perform in languages you never thought you knew. Actually..It's suddenly starting to sound all a bit dangerous really. Well I came back pretty much in one piece, having picked up nothing worse than assorted European languages and many, many, many mosquito bite scars. A formidable frolic through the ages of European theatre practice, the International Summer School is a worthwhile and fun adventure for anyone interested in branching out from conventional text-based Northern European theatre.