The National Student Drama Festival 2013

I am seven months into the job and it is already more than a year since I was appointed…I have never known time move so fast. There are 16 days to go before we open the doors of the festival.

In the last two weeks of selection, I saw Sondheim and Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along, a verbatim play about the Leveson Enquiry and a new musical with one singer and one pianist set in the 1950’s. A delicate miniature about regret and thwarted ambition. A new musical with a cast of twenty-one and a live band, set in achingly hip east London in 2012. Then The Trojan Women and the musical Chess. The selectors saw another fifteen productions in that time – plays, devised work, a site specific and grotesque fairy tales with a nod toward Shockheaded Peter.

We now have our shows: And I am so pleased we have new writing, great plays, a site-specific piece and a new musical.

  • THE BABYSITTER Young writer Breman Rajkumar’s new play about epilepsy, politics and adulthood. Producers: InDepth Theatre Company based in Warwick.
  • FACEHUNTERS A new musical with music and lyrics by Graham Mercer. Say hello to the Hipsters. Producers: The Hungry Bitches.
  • GOD OF CARNAGE Yasmina Reza’s comedy of modern manners. Producers: Drama Society at University of York.
  • THE MEMORY OF WATER Shelagh Stephenson’s poignant comedy about three sisters dealing with the death of their mother. Producers: New Theatre, Nottingham.
  • MERCURY FUR Philip Ridley’s controversial play – gangs, violence and hallucinogenic butterflies. Producers: New Theatre, Nottingham.
  • JERUSALEM Jez Butterworth’s recent West End smash. Rooster rules again. Producers: New Theatre, Nottingham.
  • STACY by Jack Thorne about an ordinary man with a tragic flaw. Producers: Fresh Loaf Productions from Manchester.
  • TATTY TALES A devised, physical theatre piece; dark, edgy and funny. Producers: Arts Educational.
  • THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES With original music and inspired by Jeanette Winterson’s 2Sexing The Cherry. Producers: Strong Box Theatre, Coventry.
  • PORNOGRAPHY Simon Stephen’s shattering play set in modern, threatened London. Producers: Warwick University Drama Society.
  • 101 Impressionist, site specific theatre based by Orwell’s iconic novel 1984. Producers: Bridgend College, Glamorgan.

I was asked recently ‘What exactly do you do?

Well… I budget. I write copy. I make funding applications. And punch the air when they are successful…I agree the catering and truck costs. I watch shows and give notes. And pray the weather will be good and the trains run on time. And ponder. Can we fit an audience of 120 people into a hotel room for a bit of site-specific. (No). Can we use the Cliff Lift for something. It seats ten. (Maybe). The last day of the festival is Good Friday…can we stage The Passion with 400 people on Scarborough’s South Beach with a day’s rehearsal? (It’s a thought). Amid all the planning, policy writing and the contracting, stuff can happen…within a few weeks of starting I got a ‘phone call to say there was a double booking of one of the rooms at the Spa Complex on the last day of the festival. The surprise booking was by a thousand scooter owners who will arrive for a party mid-afternoon. On scooters. It all got sorted and doesn’t affect the festival. But I am strangely excited about it. There we will be… and on the horizon will appear the cast of Quadrophenia. (The Arena Tour).

I am constantly struck by people’s generosity; their willingness to move their diary around to be at the festival and deliver workshops and share their knowledge. Associates and artists from the RSC, Paines Plough, Sheffield Theatres, Michael Grandage Company, Stage Entertainment, Stage Electrics, New Adventures, Stage One, The Young Vic, Equity, Spotlight and many more will be in Scarborough. I am building the programme each day. Our brilliant Selection Team will be there. The Professional Technical Team is appointed and will lead sixty students to make the festival happen. Noises Off Magazine will go to print seven times in the week with reviews, commentary, images and graphics. The Management Team is appointed to run the venues, box office and the workshops and help produce and curate exhibitions, the script library, the bookshop, internet café and other resources and events.

I hope that we can give people time to really look at the workshop programme before choosing. If your ambition is to form a company and become an Artistic Director, then a workshop on budgeting and fundraising will be invaluable. You may not have a producer straight out of the blocks. (But you might meet one at the festival). You want to produce, sit in on an audition workshop. And think about a contracts and tour booking workshop. You want to act, be a lighting designer, a sound designer, stage manager…you want to go to drama school but not sure of the best course for you. BOVTS, Central, Mountview, LAMDA, Drama UK and many others will be there.

Hope to see you in Scarborough. (Scooters optional).


Michael Brazier is Director of the National Student Drama Festival. Tickets for this year’s festival from 23-29 March 2013 in Scarborough  are available at nsdf.org.uk