Come tomorrow, however, that challenge will be a reality for eight young people drawn from youth theatre groups across Scotland – and come August, the work they've devised will head over the North Sea to Stavanger, as part of an international youth drama project with the umbrella title of Re:Location.
For Colin Bradie, director of Edinburgh-based Promote YT, the national support and development body for youth theatre in Scotland, this whole endeavour is ticking boxes he hardly dared imagine when, back in 2008, he first connected with Norway's Rogaland Theatre. "They came across to our National Festival of Youth Theatre and, quite honestly, we were all blown away by the quality of their work. Actually, we were awe-struck." He laughs, looking back, because it transpired that the awe factor was mutual. The Norwegians had been struck by the breadth – and the open, accessible nature – of the youth theatre scene in Scotland and were keen to enter into skills-sharing projects and cultural exchanges. Re:Location, however, is taking those strategies to a new and challenging level by bringing together groups from six European countries for an intensive 10-day stint of theatre-making in Stavanger next month.
"This isn't your usual exchange programme," says Bradie, who has clearly been burning the midnight email to make it happen for the Scottish participants. "This is an on-site, real-time collaboration where everyone – the youth groups and the professional practitioners – will jointly rework the material that's already been devised and brought to Stavanger to make a whole new promenade performance that will be shown as part of the city's own festival. It's not just the scale – we're taking over a huge park near the waterfront – it's the vision behind it. Whatever the end product is, it's the experience; the shared journey, the individual discoveries, that all these young people will make during Re:Location, that really counts."
But before Bradie could guarantee the presence of a Scottish contingent in Stavanger, he had to source the partnerships that would help finance the venture and, just as important, help find and then work with the eight talented young people who would become the Scottish Company. By the start of 2012, most of the foundation team were in place. Creative Scotland had invested in the project. The National Theatre of Scotland had come on-board and, as their learning and outreach manager, Gillian Gourlay explained, opted to fund a trainee post, so that the skills development that was clearly integral to Re:Location could benefit a professional theatre-maker as well as the youth group.
"We felt it was an amazing opportunity for someone to get involved at an international level," says Gourlay. "We know there's a vast amount of young talent in Scotland, but we need to encourage links with other countries, so as all that talent can be showcased abroad." That opportunity is now in the delighted hands of Jennifer Bates, who is the deaf youth theatre co-ordinator with the Glasgow-based Solar Bear theatre company.
She remembers finding out about the post and thinking 'why not?' but admits she was a bit shell-shocked when she was appointed as the assistant director on the project. Now, she's simply raring to go – aware of how the physical theatre practice and movement styles that she uses with Solar Bear performers will feed into the devising process this weekend, at Glenrothes, and then during the re-mixing of ideas in Stavanger. "In a way, this is making me look again at what I do," says Bates. "It's going to be a bit out of my comfort zone, but that's also what makes it so special for everybody. I mean, we're joking about camping this weekend – rain, mud, making a seriously good 20-minute piece in two days –then going off to Stavanger, where we're going to be staying on a boat that's anchored beside the performance site... But really, everyone is totally serious about how we prepare for this, how we represent Scotland in among groups from other countries."
Paul Gorman, head of education and participation at Visible Fictions is the lead artist on the project. He ran the workshop-auditions that whittled the many hopefuls down to eight young people from all across Scotland. "I was already throwing ideas at them that day," says Gorman. "Seeing how they'd respond, how they'd handle generating material on the project's theme, which is 'fear'. It was really important for me to find the strong, distinctive voices among them – and actually, it was less about their performing ability than about the individuality of what they were saying and exploring."
Gorman draws breath. Like everyone who has been instrumental in turning this ambitious pipe-dream into a reality, he's sensitive to the resonances that echo through the choice of theme, and of location. Last July, Anders Breivik killed more than 60 young people who were gathered together at a Workers Youth League camp. Norway is still trying to come to terms with the loss of life, the loss of future potential, the loss of a kind of innocence.
"We've no idea what images of 'fear' are going to emerge from Re:Location," says Gorman. "But already our young people are exchanging their own ideas. They're using Facebook to keep in contact, keep momentum, and what's coming through is a sense of what they want to say. We're there to help that process, not dictate what they say or do.
"We're working on ways to communicate ideas without being heavily reliant on text, even though everyone on-site in Norway is probably going to be embarrassingly good at speaking English. And it's going to be fascinating to see how they take that forward in Stavanger, not just exploring aspects of fear but finding out how theatre can become universal."
Re:Location will be shown as part of the National Festival of Youth Theatre, Rothes Hall, Glenrothes on Sunday.
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