The National Theatre has been holding a festival of new plays called Connections exclusively for young people aged 13-19 for the last 20 years. All I can say is what a fantastic opportunity this is for young people interested in acting, as it shows the casts the truth of performing in a real London theatre. The plays were shown in the Dorfman Theatre, one of the smaller venues at the National but one that definitely still holds a substantial auditorium with a very large stage. These young performers also get to work with current, successful writers — a fantastic opportunity.
Follow, Follow by Katie Douglas has a cast of only eight but the performers from the St Ives Youth Theatre in Cambridgeshire had ample opportunity to express their talents on stage. Douglas wrote the piece allowing the actors to comfortably relate to the language. The only disappointing thing is that there were some parts that were larger than others, not that this is irregular in the slightest, but I wanted to see more of the other actors who perhaps had a bit less to say. Saying this, the actors who did have the chance for bigger parts pulled them off extremely well on the whole. I was pleasantly surprised at the large amount of talent that was on the stage, particularly taking into account the ages of the actors.
In terms of the emotional levels of the piece, the characters seemed to hit a high quite quickly, meaning it was hard for them to find many places to go after this. Some of the characters were particularly aggressive, but I wanted to see a few more layers to this. Why was Big Mikey so angry? What happened with the relationship between the two girls? Why was Anne Marie so sexually obtuse? I wanted the actors to have considered in detail the backgrounds, relationships and general pasts of these characters which led to these decisions of how they interact in life situations. Whilst this is something quite complex, I feel that this could help some of the actors portray an extremely accurate representation, as some of the other actors did; I wanted to see them feel the anger, rather than playing to it.
The character whose background intentions were extremely clear and who really stood out to me was Billy, played by Sam Morris. Being a young actor, I thought during his speech he would perhaps lose the authenticity of the character. This was certainly not the case; Morris delivered his heartbreaking speech with sheer power and raw emotion. What I absolutely loved was that he wasn’t afraid of pauses, something which takes quite a few actors a long time to master. You could really see the pain in his eyes, as well as the persistent and effective vocal qualities he used to demonstrate the physical pain he was in after being attacked. Morris has bags of potential, and I really hope that this is something he continues with professionally after he finishes school.
Saying this, all of the actors had potential. Despite having a few small issues with volume and diction awareness, this piece is extremely solid. They all looked extremely comfortable on stage, despite the daunting auditorium, filled to the brim with supporters. Connections is an incredible opportunity for an incredibly talented bunch of young actors. I wish them all the best of luck for their future careers should they wish to continue acting professionally.
Follow, Follow played at the National Theatre as part of National Theatre Connections. For more information, see the National Theatre website.