WEYA at Home

With the World Event Young Artist 2012 now over, Lucy Dollman reflects on her involvement with the project,  taking us through the process of putting on a world class piece of theatre, working with local members of the community at the Nottingham Playhouse.  

WEYA, (or World Event Young Artists) is, as the name suggests, a World Event that took place in Nottingham early this September featuring the ‘best international creative talent’ and providing young people with the opportunity to share their creativity across a ‘spectrum of art forms.’ In other words, for ten days, Nottingham became a buzzing hub in the youth art’s scene, with over 1000 young artists from 100 nations taking part in everything from plays to contemporary dance exhibitions; art installations, to weird, wild and wonderful exhibitions at Nottingham Castle, including a six foot, real-life grass man (dressed entirely in real turf).

I became involved in the festival completely by chance; an interview at the Nottingham Playhouse led to an audition, which latterly lead to three gruelling weeks of research, a complicated devising process, and seven hours of intensive rehearsals each day. We were a group of twelve predominantly local performers, aged between eighteen and twenty one, led by experienced directors Sarah Stephenson and Laura Woodward. Our aim: to produce a forty minute piece of devised theatre, based upon the theme of homelessness in Nottingham, and featuring an interview from twenty three year old YMCA resident, Omari.

The first two weeks were dedicated predominantly to the devising process. We spent the majority of the time experimenting with small physical and vocal abstract pieces centred upon themes of isolation, hope and, of course, the concept of ‘home’, which latterly developed into the name of our production, Home? We even spent periods of time in doorways in the streets of Nottingham, recording sights, sounds and smells which were latterly incorporated into our performance.

Laura, who has trained at CSSD, also coached us in a verbatim workshop, in which we took pieces of Omari’s interview and repeated them word for word, assuming everything from his breaths and intonation, to his tone and pitch. By week three we were left with a medley of short scenes, featuring everything from abstract movement pieces with impressive lifts, to short pieces of verbatim and real interpretations of events that took place during Omari’s months on the streets of Nottingham.

We were lucky enough to have Omari with us throughout the majority of the rehearsal process, providing us with an integral insight into the gritty reality of homelessness and life in Nottingham and ensuring that our performance did not resonate as too pretentious or preachy. Workers from the Nottingham YMCA provided us with an audience for our second dress rehearsal, and their tears and words of support reassured us that our message, promoting public awareness of homelessness in Nottingham, was being communicated far more successfully than we ever could have hoped.

Our production, which took place in promenade and involved intensive periods of direct address, moved the audience across the performance space, allowing them to peer through windows, move through doorways, and make their way around a moving projected map of the city; thus creating the illusion that they, like Omari, were being moved from pillar to post through the streets of Nottingham.

As well as providing us with the opportunity to work alongside some great performers, technicians and a fantastic design team, the festival meant that we could attend other Nottingham based WEYA arts events for free. We therefore experienced an absolute overload of local and international theatre, attending everything from the edgy Four Letter Word performed by an all American cast at the Lakeside Arts Theatre, to an interactive poetry workshop hosted by the Nottingham-based Mouthy Poets one of whom is the university’s own student, Matt Miller.

So after three weeks of intensive rehearsal and performance, plenty of bruises and an abundance of late nights, I feel well and truly out-arted. If anything my experience of the WEYA festival has opened my eyes not only to the immense amount of international talent the youth of today can provide, but also to how much local young talent there is here in Nottingham. Needless to say I am now hooked on Nottingham theatre and am working with director Sarah and the Playhouse’s Young Company this Semester, silently hoping that they will require an extra pair of hands to help with the WEYA festival next year…

Lucy Dollman

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