National Theatre’s Connections Festival 2022 showcases young theatre talent across the UK
For the past 27 years, Connections Festival, curated by the National Theatre, has been challenging and encouraging young people to explore their theatrical talents whilst finding community, inspiration and their own voice. Each year, the festival commissions ten plays to be performed by teenagers and young adults.
Remote, by Stef Smith, delves into the feeling of everything just being too much. Teenage Antler steps out of her front door, smashes her phone and climbs a tree to protest against… well, everything. This play shows an impressive degree of emotional intelligence and insight into power dynamics. Whilst the work may be a little sanctimonious and obvious at times, some really interesting things happen among the gang of bullies (led by Blister and his “sidekick”, Skin). The characters are multidimensional and their motivations feel genuine and raw. Rather than just being painted as “bad”, these kids are clearly hurting, ultimately for the same reasons as Antler and many of the audience: feeling like nobody cares about the planet, about one another, or about them.
Variations, by Katie Hims, explores multi-worlds and string theory over breakfast. 13-year-old Alice has an argument with her mum and is sick of her quarrelling brothers. She wishes her life was different, and now, every time she answers the door to the postman, she wakes up with a new possible variation of her family – including one where she has two sisters, one where she’s her mum in the 80s and one where she doesn’t exist at all. The addition of this impressive script shows a rise in awareness and interest in ideas surrounding quantum physics.
Find a Partner! by Miriam Battye is a fantastic blend of Love Island meets Squid Game. The contestants have to prove they’re the best at love, then find and keep their partner or they’re out – and dead. Overseen by a silent, dapper and seemingly sadistic producer, and hosted by a sparkly compere, who gradually loses her grip on reality, the contestants quickly find out what they’ve signed up for as the blood begins the spill and the need to win over the catty, fickle audience grows.
You Don’t Need to Make a Big Song and Dance out of It, by Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula and Matt Regan, is a musical about porn, inspired by interviews with 10,000 young people across the UK. The text is derived verbatim from the conversations, and aims to give an honest view of what young people really think about porn, and what they want older generations to know. From fun, upbeat numbers to sadder, darker insights into how porn can affect the way we view each other and ourselves, this show includes an important message about the nuances of the industry, as well as the reality that young people have seen it, so why do we try to “protect” them by not acknowledging it?
This year, Connections Festival is working with 5,320 young people and 225 companies, and partnering with 30 theatres to perform to 26,000 audience members. Young people who are not on-stage are also encouraged to take on backstage and production roles – in 2022, almost 800 young people all over the country are working behind the scenes at the festival.
Connections Festival is on at the National Theatre from 28th June until 2nd July 2022. For further information or to book visit here.