I blogged a little while ago about directing Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy with Yew Tree Youth Theatre and NT Connections were kind enough to ask me to blog again after we’d completed our home performances. Hence this sequel…
We’re in our Connections break at the moment, the home performances are all done and dusted and it’s a couple of months until we have the highlight of our YTYT year and perform at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. This is the point in the project where I reflect on what we’ve done so far and the director’s report from the NT director (Jack) who visited Wakefield and with all this in mind think about what comes next.
The first things I have to reflect upon and indeed celebrate are the huge achievements of the actors. The cast pushed themselves so hard, developing characters with more bravery, truth and integrity than they have ever achieved before. They all stepped out of their comfort zone to such good effect and what’s lovely is it’s not just me who thought so…our show report praised the maturity and care put into the challenge of bringing the characters to life. We talked a lot about ensuring we treated the issues with respect, that we played the characters and the story not the tragedy. We discussed balance and what it was to live the lives of the character. We experimented and redrafted and thought and debated and the result was something to be unequivocally proud of. It’s so lovely as a director to see such well earned pride manifest itself in the smiles and words of young people who have put their heart and soul into something so very special.
The next thing I find myself contemplating is the response of the audience to the play. I have to admit being nervous about it’s reception when we opened our doors to the friends and family of the cast. Such a brutal, hard hitting story was bound to get a reaction; I was both curious and apprehensive about what that reaction might look like. Apparently I didn’t need to worry at all; so many people came out of our production of “Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy,” praising it greatly. They were hugely impressed by the way the cast carried off the darkness of the piece and the intensity of the story. Intriguingly however a lot of them then added to their praise that they didn’t know how to feel about it. After a few of these comments it occurred to me that it was because the playwright, Jonathan Harvey, has purposefully in his construction of the play made us think rather than feel. In the way he offers the story (it runs chronologically backwards for those who haven’t seen or read it) we can’t get carried away with the fate of the characters. We are forced instead to look at the decisions they make, why they make them and what should/could have happened instead. When you’re dealing with a subject such as hate crime this is vital stuff…Jonathan is a clever, clever man…and of course Brecht needs to take a bit of a bow too.
Which then leaves me in the position of deciding what is next. There is certainly work to do as we reprise the production. Some of which I already knew, some of which was insightfully signposted by Jack’s feedback which was full of generous praise and ideas. (Just as an aside here, I have to thank both him and Lucy at Connections for fixing what could have been a nightmare of a date mix up so smoothly.) When we go back into rehearsals we’ll be thinking a little more about set and sound, we’ll be thinking about the relationship between actors and audience and we’ll be ensuring that all the performances are consistently where they need to be. A nice set of challenges to inspire even greater storytelling, even greater achievements and consequently even greater pride!
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