This week I am in Brixen which is high up in northern, German-speaking, Italy. It is a region called South Tyrol, and if you imagine the Sound of Music you get an idea of what it looks like. Mountains and valleys with high up isolated communities and huge Baroque churches and statues in the valley towns. Buildings that have lasted 500 years.
It’s a fun, friendly festival and I’ve been coming here every two years since 2000 as they hold a theatre festival called Sapperlot. Young people’s theatre groups from all over the world gather together to share their work. Every day they watch three or four plays, eat together and take part in communal workshops.
The last time I was here in 2018, Waltham Forest Theatretrain presented their version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I watched a performance in the street with the rain pouring down. They didn’t stop despite getting absolutely drenched and got a big cheer at the end. I’m sure they preferred performing in the large well-equipped local theatre.
My job these days is to adjudicate each play, so the day after the performance the performers and the director come to a room where I talk about what I saw. It’s important to be positive and for the young people to be encouraged by what I say. Few plays are in English so that’s also a challenge for me.
What to say? If it’s an interesting story and the performers put their hearts into it there is always something that you come away with. If, however, the story is a bit dull and the performers don’t connect with the material it can be boring. What to say then? For me the secret of telling a powerful story lies in the conflict inside the story. If there is no conflict then there is no story. So, in a dull story you need to find something to give it an edge.
Over the years I’ve learnt a lot about performing by watching how a story in a different language is handled. It sounds like self-inflicted punishment but often it reminds you that we are all part of the same human race with feelings and events that are common to us all.
We were originally meant to be returning to the festival in 2020, so it’s wonderful to be returning and seeing young people from around the world gather together again.
Since 1992 Theatretrain – a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 3-18, specialise in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage and resilience. If you know of a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit www.theatretrain.co.uk to find out what our Performing Arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.