‘These Bridges’ performed by Vandyke Students
Year 10 GCSE Drama and Year 12 Theatre Studies students performed “These Bridges” by Phoebe Eclair Powell in The Drama Studio to two full audiences in preparation for their regional performance at The Royal Theatre in May.
National Theatre Director Ed Stambollouian was in attendance and was clearly impressed by the students’ work. He writes: “They are now very much bonded as a cast and there’s a lot of love, support and enthusiasm in the group. This production of ‘These Bridges’ is a wildly inventive and playful piece of theatre. It has an incredible energy to it and the commitment of the company is striking. Your production ends with a really beautiful image as the teenagers stand on the bridge and your whole company hold hands. It’s a lovely moment of stillness after the madness of the storm. The cast look out into the audience and it feels like a real moment of hope. I loved it. The production has been designed by the students as part of the process. The set feels like an installation; it’s a mixture of flats covered in paint and graffiti, bits of rubbish, dustbins, traffic lights, a kitchen sink, an old chair, strings of plastic bags and tube signs. It feels like the debris after a disastrous flood. It’s expansive and messy and anarchic. I was seriously impressed with the vocal levels of your company. Even in your large studio space, I heard every word. They should be celebrated for this because it’s going to really help them when they get to the Royal.”
Theatre reviewer Tom Scudamore from The University of East Anglia added “These Bridges functions as a performative piece for character moments and pure weirdness. What the script thrives at is feeding its performers with opportunities for individuality, and Vandyke took every one of these opportunities cleverly. Éclair-Powell’s ideas are incredibly inventive, sure, and Vandyke are stylistically very experimental. This came together. Vandyke’s interpretation is so watchable you can’t take your eyes off it. The world of These Bridges is messy, overcrowded and dangerous. The realism is disturbing, a dystopian portrait of what floods can do, and who caused them: us. Ultimately, though, These Bridges, the version that belongs to Vandyke’s sea of incredible players, is a triumph of performance and loopy ideas realised by every actor on stage. Stylistically, it’s relentless. Visually, it’s ambitious, colourful and gorgeous. The bridges – the creative spirit and top-notch acting from everyone – are what qualified the unnatural in this tale as ‘natural’ in performance. Something tells me the world should be listening to drama-makers like these youngsters. As their explanation in-character at the end of Éclair-Powell’s play contends, these teens realised that the impact of floods and crises could be resolved if humans listened to each other more, and worked together. For young people, celebrating this ideal in a weirdly wonderful human piece of theatre, it absolutely makes sense.”
The students look forward to performing the play again in Northampton as part of the 2018 National Connections festival.