This week has seen the first International Student Drama Festival (ISDF) take place in Sheffield. The National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) took the decision to make this year’s event global, so to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad (see Teaching Drama Summer 1 for our article on the NSDF ‘Going Global‘).
The 9-day festival began on 22 June with an address from Tim Etchells, Forced Entertainment’s artistic director. The company, based in Sheffield, was established in 1984 by Exeter university graduates – something which would inspire many of the student attendees.
Etchells spoke of his concern for the government’s current attitude toward the funding of artists and theatre: ‘We are – in case you hadn’t noticed – living in a space of economic downturn […] a space which offers us the dismantling and out sourcing of state functions (health, education, arts) and in general cuts and with cuts a steady insistence on the importance of private sponsorship a situation in which, little by little sponsors help to define the shape of public institutions.’
Etchells also said how ISDF was an ‘amazing opportunity to show and to meet and to invent’. He offered advice to students, recommending that they should, ‘steal things, from everyone and anyone. Take one thing from everything you love and then hide, mix and rework it all in what you do. Take one thing and make it yours.’
As well as Etchells, there have been a number of visiting artists in attendance at the international festival. Hull Truck Theatre Company’s John Godber is acting as a judge for this year’s panel. Other big names from the theatre industry in the UK have included the RSC, LAMDA, Mountview, Old Vic Tunnels, Masterclass, Out of Joint, Forced Entertainment and many other organisations and individuals who have been running 270 workshops that have been put on for visitors.
There has also been a selection of visiting global artists such as Vietnam Youth Theatre, Australian company Circa, Ashtar Theatre from Palestine and theatre companies from Russia, Iran and Iceland.
The ISDF has seen 20 performances from students from around the UK, as well as many international performances from theatre companies originating from the US, Israel, Japan, Australia and Zimbabwe.
Shota Rustaveli Theatre Company, from Georgia, USA, were described as, ‘a highlight of this year’s ISDF programme’ by The Stage, with their performance of Our Town. Another highly commended performance came from With Wings Theatre Company, a group of former students from Giggleswick, Yorkshire. Their production of If Room Enough, an adaptation of The Tempest, has been referred to as the ‘hottest ticket in town’. There are plans to take the production to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.
Director of theatre at the University of Sheffield (one of the festival’s partners) Professor Steve Nicholson said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for students to broaden their theatre experience and maybe even challenge some expectations. It’s almost like having the best of the Edinburgh Fringe on our doorstep and shows once again that Sheffield is one of the most exciting cities in the UK if you want to see and study live performance.’
The ISDF will finish on 30 June.