I’ve always believed that theatre should be about the audience experience, not a passive action of sitting back and watching. Thanks to A Younger Theatre and The Old Vic, I was able to catch hot show Hedda Gabler in the company of around 30 reviewers and readers of AYT, including editor Jake and features editor Laura, and was reminded that a part of experiencing theatre is sharing it with others. Art is always going to be matter of interpretation and the opportunity to explore that with a large group of diverse individuals absolutely enriched and refreshed that experience.
The Old Vic is a gorgeous theatre, and I’ll guiltily admit that until tonight I had never stepped inside. Hedda Gabler was a return to where my love of theatre began – with the fathers of naturalism. Chatting to two actors – Jimmy who’s training at LAMDA and Natasha who’s training with Fourth Monkey Theatre Company – who knew a wider selection of Ibsen plays than I did, I could compare their knowledge of Ibsen with my love of the other great nineteenth century playwright, Chekhov. And reflecting upon this after the show, I was better able to consolidate my grasp of Hedda Gabler. However what was probably the most satisfying element of seeing a play with 30 people was that I wasn’t critiquing it relentlessly but felt entirely free to enjoy it and to be comfortable in my opinion even with half our party also being opinionated reviewers.
A lot of us were writers for AYT, but what excited me was meeting readers of AYT and talking to the people I’m actually writing for. At 19, I’m never going to pretend that because I’m lucky enough to write for AYT that I’m an authority on anything, and what I relished was this sense of mutual respect between us all. Attending were all sort of young theatre makers including playwrights, producers, technicians and actors. Beyond seeing Hedda Gabler, whilst discussing what we were all individually working on I was offered several solutions to some of the problems I’m currently encountering as I tackle producing my own play. Conversation flowed from exchanging opinions on what to see and learning what this and that theatre company were up to, to more obscure things like receiving advice on where to take up circus skills (courtesy of former Circus Space employee and AYT reviewer Jordan), and tips to pass on to my opera-singer-to-be partner from Hannah, who’s currently on a work placement with the ENO. These are the people I could collaborate with in future and peers that I learn from now. And that’s not to say everyone that writes or reads AYT must work in theatre; I also met two people coincidentally both working in finance including AYT’s reviewer Amina and Finola, a reviewer for Cherwell (an Oxford publication).
This unique group of people meant that the social was invaluable in terms of networking. One of the first things I was told about this industry was the importance of networking and I absolutely dreaded it. I do enjoy meeting new people, yet the actual process of essentially introducing yourself to strangers and trying to appear interesting and useful to them is an utterly daunting prospect for me personally. Providing this scenario eliminated any of that anxiety, as we were all in the same boat.
The technological revolution has worked brilliantly to bring theatre and opportunities to wider audiences and I’d that say websites such as A Younger Theatre are at the heart of that. But you can almost forget how strange it is to exchange a million emails between colleagues but never be able to put names to faces. Especially knowing that you’re missing out on potentially exciting relationships beyond a computer screen. All I can say is it was brilliant fun meeting everyone, and to strengthen this young network of relationship we’d best make these theatrical socials a more regular event! Yes, that is a hint Jake and co…
Hedda Gabler plays at the Old Vic until 10 November.