The Desert of the Real
What a spectacularly great week. NSDF09 has, by any standards, been a classic year for the Festival. For a start there was the weather. I can’t remember a warmer, sunnier Festival. And it feels like that warmth and sunniness has bled into the Festival itself. Then there were the shows: these again were almost without exception *of a standard* at the very least and in several cases were exceptional. There were the staff, visiting artists and judges, all of whom somehow magically turned out to be a universally friendly, approachable good-humoured, passionate bunch.
The LOs went about their often interminable, thankless work with friendly energy and enthusiasm enough to suggest that manning often-deserted rooms and corridors was reward in itself for them. Once again the technical crew worked their usual magic so effortlessly it seemed perfectly normal that a selection of unprepossessing dance rooms, badminton courts and ludicrously large spaces should be transformed into high-functioning, state-of-the-art theatre spaces, and then transformed again into entirely different configurations in apparently no time at all. And then there’s you, the Festival-goers. What a lovely lot you are - smiling, passionate and bright.
The collision of these elements has made for an incredible Festival. I think we’ve seen the early stages of some remarkable careers this week, not to mention some hugely exciting company work. At the same time, we’ve enjoyed a set of discussions notable for the willingness on the part of companies and critics alike to have civilised discussions with one another, perhaps even learning something into the bargain. There has been a carefulness and sensitivity in the way that everyone has approached each other’s work, and indeed each other’s critiques, that’s been a joy to behold. On a more personal note, I’d like to thank Festival director Holly Kendrick for her continued support of Noises Off. She knows we can sometimes be a thorn in her side, and yet she continues to find money in the budget for our ongoing existence. The constant help from her two sidekicks, Chris Wootton and Faye Watton has been greatly appreciated. It has been a pleasure to catch up with older members of the selection team and to meet the new ones.
Many of this year’s selected companies have been particularly good friends to us up here in the Vitadome. Noises Off would particularly like to thank Normal for the loan of their magnificent swan; Tub / The Wake, not only for lending us their bath, but also for donating writer/performer Jonathan Brittain for the week. Various vowels from Vowel Play have been regular presences throughout the week. No Wonder, similarly, lent us the services of their Jennie Agg for all-purpose writing, proofing, organising and generally showing me up. Thanks also to Elephant’s Graveyard for treating us to rousing renditions of the music from their show during copy deadline.
Noises Off had something of a bumper year, with new faces repeatedly returning to the office to help out. We’re all hoping to see more of Caitlin Albery-Bevan, Zoe Hughes and Ruth Ingamells at coming Festivals, along with even more hard-core presences Isolde Godfrey, Mary Osborn and Will Sawney. More committed yet still were Carly Mills and Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart who both wrote assiduously and stuck around to join in the miasma of sleep-deprived mania that is the production process. Alex Watts brought a lovely gentle air to proofing and general office busying. Hampton School continued to send brilliant people – Matt Thomlinson and Gareth Thomas wrote brilliantly and entertained the office – and Old Hamptonians Euan Forsyth and Henry Ellis turned wrangling with our evil layout software Scribus a constantly amusing treat. Honestly.
Richards Dennis and T. Watson brought alarming prose-based prolificity and near-tireless dedication, with Richard Dennis in particular showing exceptional skill in being able to sleep in the most inconvenient of office locations, while Watson still incredibly managed to lay out yet more pages.
Sarah Dean brought her Brownie Magazine-honed talent (really) to the proofing desk, while dispensing much-needed comfort and tea. Ben Lander reprised his role as the popular, spectacled, and increasingly invaluable presence in the layout department. Meanwhile John Winterburn proved himself to be the lynchpin around whom the office rotates: an able manager and an organised, resourceful and most importantly very funny addition to the office.
The core team of Phil Mann, Claire Trevien and deputy editors Tom Wateracre and Chris Wilkinson were once again a continual pleasure to work with. Witty and imaginative, not to mention generous.
I hope everyone will be returning to civilian life with a rich stock of memories to sustain them through the coming year. For me, NSDF09 will be indelibly linked to the moment when I looked up to discover two of Britain’s greatest playwrights sat next to me writing an interview with one another for Noises Off. This is rivalled only by the moment when No Wonder came into the NOFFice to fill Tub’s bath with teddy bears and pornography. Returning to the comparative desert of the real world, I worry normal life will look a bit flat for a few weeks now.
All the best,