National Theatre of Scotland's tfd season targets teenage audience
Laura Ennor talks to some of the creative talents behind the National Theatre of Scotland’s exciting new season aimed at young people
‘Teenagers aren’t aliens, they’re just us but younger.’ It’s a fact easily forgotten but one that playwright Rob Drummond and the rest of the team behind a new season for young people from the National Theatre of Scotland are keeping firmly in mind.
Primarily for young people (many performances are limited to under 21s), and with the help of young people, NTS is taking over the Tron Theatre for a week of new and exciting theatre in what promises to be a real festival atmosphere – with backstage tours and chances to meet cast and crew informally, food, drink and DJs.
The season came together when NTS artistic director Vicky Featherstone matched up three separate commissions with a gap in audience demographics. ‘We realised that as much as we would like to be able to say that we were getting young people into the theatre, really they were coming with their schools, as part of their courses – it’s the hardest audience to crack.’ And so the three pieces became the basis for tfd – an acronym devised by a group of teenagers working with NTS who swore Featherstone to secrecy over its meaning, ‘so that anyone could put into it what they wanted’.
Featherstone is directing the same cast in two of the pieces, novelist Cathy Forde’s chaotic house party drama Empty and a playground-based pop-art adventure, Miracle Man, from that specialist in the drama of growing pains, Douglas Maxwell. The three works on offer cover a wide stretch of theatrical ground, satisfying the need to offer the uninitiated a taste of everything theatre can be in a way that is that is accessible and yet innovative.
‘Miracle Man is a very funny, black, black comedy, about faith and belonging and having something to believe in and that whole thing when the school gets on side of something,’ says Featherstone. ‘And then with Empty, you’ve got this absolute chaos when a party goes wrong, and that’s more like a piece of music in a way, [showing] the chaotic collapse of a party. And then Mr Write has this fantastic thing where it only exists because the audience is there, the audience makes the story. And I’m really proud of the three completely different feelings of them.’
Rob Drummond, aka Mr Write himself, is excited about bringing his highly experimental piece of process-based theatre to a younger audience. ‘I really enjoy theatre that isn’t safe. Of course I love writing play scripts as well, but every now and then I love to just do something completely live that could go wrong.’ Mr Write involves Drummond and the other audience members selecting one person to come up on stage and ‘have a general conversation about who they are and what makes them a person’ with Drummond as he creates a spider diagram of their life across the stage, something which will then form the basis for a mini-play which he will write, live on stage and print out for his volunteer to take home at the end. Sounds crazy? That’s probably because it is. But if anyone can handle it, it might just be young people, and Drummond is undaunted: ‘No matter what happens, it’s valid, and it’s real and it’s happening live in front of an audience and it’s uncontrollable.’
tfd, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 16–Sat 20 Mar.