April 21, 2017 – Napier Municipal Theatre
This place is on fire. Big emotion in all its hues sparks up from the audience. It’s an audience of two halves: from midway to the back proud parents, families and friends, supporters and benefactors; up the front students – their turn will come tomorrow – mirroring their compatriots on stage.
This is the annual National Youth Drama School Showing of Work. These players will never receive such honest, warm, understanding, empathetic, exuberant reception, acceptance, applause, adulation as this. It’s catching. I laugh belly-loads. I gasp. I wince. I pound my feet and slap my thigh and click like a cricket’s chirrup (it’s a NYDS thing).
NYDS is an 8-day performing arts intensive for ages 14-18. It happens every year: this its 25th. It does what many commentators on the current state of education say all schools should attempt: it links youth with industry, gives them real experience of what it’s really like ‘out there’. Schools all over the place are trying to find ways for their students to connect with the working world, segue into careers-ville; NYDS does it. Among NYDS tutors are Silver Scroll winners, international Slam Poetry champions, Shortland Street stars. NYDS kids learn from those in the know, not just about their craft but about resilience in a tough industry, how to manage rejection and success, how to manage yourself. But, and this is the important bit, only a tiny fraction of these kids have their eye on a career in ‘show biz’. No matter where they end up the skills they learn here are the ones we need in every sector: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, bravery, adaptability.
This Showing of Work isn’t a polished performance, nor is it meant to be. The real work happens in the run-up to this night. It’s the days of learning and the evenings of sharing ideas, energy, each others diverse and dynamic talents – that’s the real work. We are lucky to get, and more than happy with, the glimpse they give us. It hints at the greater body of work that lies behind each line delivered, each dance step, each rhyme.
The pinnacle of this night, the piece that best sums up NYDS for me is the collaboration between students from Poetry in Performance and Contemporary Movement. This is a beautiful and moving piece where voices and dance intermingle in layers. There is discordance, juxtaposition and beautiful affinity. Each individual brings themselves fully to the work, then the energy is redoubled and amplified by the joining of many, each unique but symbiotically attached to those around them. Themes show what a healthy cathartic way of articulating ‘teen angst’ NYDS can be: using creative expression to explore everything from suicide to caffeine, violence to friendship, sex to drunkeness.
Each NYDS student is challenged to push themselves, says Artistic Director Claire Keys, to step outside the things they find comfortable. This stretching is made visible before us. And each one of them extends their reach to meet that goal. The result is a broad offering that has something for everyone in the audience, from the truly terrifying stage make-up work, through to the hilarious improv class, through to the beauty and richness of the songwriting stream. Diarise this for 2018.