The National Theatre Connections Project began 20 years ago. Since then the National Theatre has commissioned and published more than 150 plays for Connections, giving young people aged 13-19 across the UK and Ireland access to the very best new writing for theatre by internationally acclaimed playwrights.
Each year the Connections team travels the length and breadth of the country to support and encourage the participants – the drama teachers and youth theatre directors who take on the challenge of staging a new play, and the young theatre companies.
This year there were 500 companies chosen to take part in the Connections project. Neale Wade Acts was lucky enough to be one of the 500 chosen. We were given the play ‘What Are They Like’ by Lucinda Coxon and started working on it in November 2015. Our company went through many changes, losing and gaining members regularly. The culmination of this project was taking our performance to the Norwich Playhouse on Thursday 21 April. We were all very excited at the prospect and opportunity to work in a professional theatre with professional technical support.
The day at Norwich, with the experience of performing at a professional theatre was incredible! The pupils who made up the cast really enjoyed the day. They took part in workshops at The Garage and then did a real ‘get-in’ at the Palace Theatre, with the lights and sound being programmed by professional ‘techies’ from the theatre, and then performed there. Nerves were high, but all of the cast performed amazingly, really showing themselves and the Academy off in a great light. The reaction of all members of the audience was brilliant. The comments we got from our National Theatre director/judge was that it was ‘the best we had done’. The manager of The Garage thought it ‘showed a great sense of the ensemble of the cast, all supporting each other’. The other groups involved in the day also came up to the students at the end and congratulated them on their performance.
It was an inspiring day, that we hope to be able to repeat in the future and maybe (if we are chosen) we will be off to London to perform it next. Fingers crossed!