In June 2018, YTAS members Collision and PACE travelled to London’s National Theatre to perform at the prestigious Connections Festival. We talked to both teams ahead of their visits and our first interview is with Collision’s Clara Bloomfield (read our interview with PACE’s Jenni Mason here).
She is an award winning freelance international theatre-maker, director and lecturer from Scotland. Clara specialises in creating sociopolitically engaged performance in a range of contexts and settings. Her work, which is immediate and responsive, explores the stories of the everyday and is presented both in theatres and in non-traditional spaces including parks, hospitals, night clubs and breweries. Clara stroves to cultivate learning environments that promote creativity, experimentation, idea generation, risk taking and collaboration.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Collision?
Collision is a Scottish based company that creates small scale touring theatre for and with young adult audiences. Collision creates performance that encourage a greater dialogue about what it is to be a young person in todays society, through the exploration of people, place and identity. Young people sit at the heart of our company and inform everything we do. Through our engagement work, where the young company sits, we collaborate with children and young people aged 8 – 25 years, in both performance and engagement projects, in a range of contexts and settings, to creatively explore and respond the world in which young people live.
Can you tell us about the show you took to Connections this year?
We took The Blue Electric Wind by Brad Birch. When people at school start forgetting things, Steph wonders if she’s the only one who’s noticed. She and some of the school’s misfits seem to be the only ones who can see what’s happening. Is it the weather? Is it a virus? They must join forces to try and work out what is causing everyone in town to lose all sense of who they are.
Our 1980’s inspired version of Birch’s The Blue Electric Wind is a contemporary exploration of what it is to be a young adult and, like the great classic 80’s teen movies, (ET, Stand By Me, The Goonies, etc), this powerful coming of age production might just see our ‘kids’ save the world!! I was inspired not only by 80s movies but contemporary programmes like Stranger Things that are inspired by that era.
As a theatre maker this excites me and I feel Brad was echoing this sentiment. So, along with young people of Collision Young Company, we wanted highlight the message of the play (which we jointly believe in) through an aesthetic of in a time periods / genre that actively celebrated thing people as the main protagonists in their storylines.
How did your young people react when they were selected to present their piece in London?
The young people were stunned into silence, which are unusual for our young company. Lucy one our company members said ‘It means everything to us as a company to be performing at the National Theatre. The National Connections has given us the opportunity as a company, as a group of young people the chance to be heard. We can’t thank them enough for that!’. I think Lucy’s comment says it all.
What has been the most valuable thing about being involved in the Connections Festival?
Firstly, the show is a real proud moment for us at Collision. Having spent the last few months collaborating with these young theatre makers, it has been incredible watching each of them flourish artistically and personally, as they have created performance for their peers in a piece written specifically for teenage audiences. The cast have a unique take on Brad’s work and he has valued their opinions and suggestions in developing his work.
Secondly, and equally as valuable, is the National’s belief in replicating the high quality production values they have for their main stage productions in theatre by young people. They are committed to ensuring they young people voice is valued and heard through ensuring the aesthetic quality production replicates their own work.
What’s next for Collision?
It’s an exciting time for Collision, we are about to embarks on a three year project called Child’s Play. It will see us research and create new performance into the representation and participation of young people in performance. Representation and participation it the driving force behind the Collision and after six years we want to interrogate our approach and practice by unpicking what it is to collaborate with young people and to make work for young people. I am seeking to engage individuals – irrespective of age – from a range of diverse backgrounds and artistic practices to explore if boundaries like geography or culture impacts on the role of the adult artist when collaborating with young people.
How can youth theatre change the world?
I believe great theatre – and youth theatre is no different – to be immediate and reflective of the world in which individuals live. In its communication there is a sense of urgency to reflect the collaborators ‘here and now’. whether responding to world events or personal experiences – it voices the thoughts, opinions of the individual and of the collective.