ALTHOUGH most Sheffielders would think the Park Hill Estate an unlikely place to put on a show, the National Youth Theatre saw its potential straight away to stage their annual large-scale production there.
And so there will be four performances of Slick, involving 300 NYT members from across the country, at the beginning of next month.
“When Paul Roseby (NYT artistic director) reccied Park Hill the original idea was to do the production across different northern cities but when we saw Park Hill we thought we could do the whole thing here,” explains Anna Niland, director of Slick. “ It’s 50 years old and being transformed, so we liked the politics of it. But also it lends itself to theatre, the shape of it is like a huge hexagonal ampitheatre. We won’t use parts of the estate where people are still living, though.”
Combining the enthusiasm of youth and expert-led scientific research, Slick will draw awareness to the global debate on climate change with dazzling aerial theatre and choreographed mass-participation performance
“This is the second part of a trilogy following S’warm about the demise of bees and the impact of it on the world which we did at Battersea Power Station and other locations in London last year,” says the director. “This one focuses on urban waste and the impact of that, particularly looking at slicks in the Pacific. A huge current of plastic waste in which everything has been swept up has created a garbage island in the North Pacific Gyre and we became fascinated by that.
“There’s a Danish scientist who is trying to turn it into something positive by creating an eco island and we’re looking at what happens if that is done.
The journey for the audience will be through the Park Hill estate which itself is being transformed. There’s a parallel there of a place which is being recycled and regenereated by Urban Splash so we are looking at urban waste and global waste.”
Anna Niland is overall director overseeing four other directors who will be responsible for each of the four groups that the company is being divided into.
In week one they will be working with Phoenix Dance, being given physical, choral and vocal training. “We then start two weeks rehearsals in the grounds of a local school, Springs Academy, because it would be difficult to work at Park Hill itself which is a building site, until the final production week.”
The designers have got to work creating the setting for each scene. “Everything we use is recyclable such as curtains made out of plastic bottles and costumes out of rubbish and bringing in old tyres,” says Niland.
“There is a narrative of a girl looking for a boy who has disappeared to an island and we find out what has become of him. When the audience arrive they will be looking for a particular character. Each section of the audience has been allocated four characters and they will have been sent an email inviting them to an island.
“The email idea is aimed at young people who will respond to a kind of gap year offer to help create an island. You can see why the boy was attracted to it, to leave mobile phones behind and all contact to the world and go to build a party island. When they get there it turns out to be different. The audience will go on a journey guided by the four characters who are like holiday reps.”
There are 50 principal roles in the story scripted by Ali Taylor. .
“It has an operatic feel although there is a simple narrative,” continues the director. “You have to be careful the audience get the idea of the girl wanting to find the boy. There is a resolution to the story but there can’t be one to the wider issue.
“There will also be a film element. We will use the audience – which is restricted to 250 for each performance - as part of the story and we are asking them to become immersed and suspend their disbelief and forget they are in the Park Hill Estate.
“We want to reach the young people of Sheffield with a free 90-minute show so it will be spectacular with people coming down the sides of buildings on silks.”
The final part of the trilogy next year will be a piece called Flood in Salford Quays. “I’m excited about that since I am from Manchester originally but it’s also part of recognising that the NYT is not just something that goes on in London,” says Niland.
“The ecological theme for the trilogy came from our members who said they were interested in looking a these sorts of issues and how to engage the public with them and make people more proactive.”
There are performances of Slick from Thursday, September 1, to Saturday at 7.15pm plus a matinee on Saturday. Tickets via www.ideastap.com