On Sunday July 3rd, twelve young people from across the UK and Ireland arrived in Birmingham for On The Edge The World Festival of Theatre For Young Audiences.
When the eleven other Young Critics and I arrived in Birmingham, we were not exactly in conditions that you would call “conducive to ease and comfort”. The majority of us were in a city we’d never visited, surrounded by people we didn’t know, in the midst of a sprawling international theatre festival. We were not by any means in a position to form instant friendships.
But for me, my major fear is not to do with the people I will be watching theatre with, but the theatre itself. The reality of the situation is that the majority of the theatre we will be watching is simply not for me. Much of it will aimed at people who have yet to hit puberty, and the rest will likely be made with a very specific aspect of what you might call “teen culture” in mind. These assumptions may yet be proven wrong, but as of right now it’s seeming pretty hard to ignore the looming question, “Who am I to say whether this theatre is any good if I’m not the one who’s supposed to like it?”
Our first workshops with Alan King and Anna Galligan showed me that the key to tackling both these problems (how to relate to strangers and how to appreciate that which you can’t relate to) might be the same: empathy.
For now I am tentatively prepared to say that my main take away from the workshop is that all that is required to fairly judge that which is truly unfamiliar to you, be it person or play, is that you must understand what it is they are trying to communicate and why. In the workshop we were able to do this simply by allowing each other to listen and talk. Whether this principle still holds outside of the highly controlled environment of a drama workshop remains to be seen.
I look forward to finding out.