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BWW Review: THE NOISE WE MAKE, NST Young Company

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The legacy of Nuffield Southampton Theatres lives on through NST Young Company.

BWW Review: THE NOISE WE MAKE, NST Young CompanyBWW Review: THE NOISE WE MAKE, NST Young CompanyNuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) was one of the first UK theatres to suffer at the hands of coronavirus. After its fall into administration in May, and subsequent closure two months later, you'd be forgiven for thinking that its days of influence and inspiration were over.

However, from the silence left by the theatre's empty stages comes an offering from the young people of the NST community - specifically, NST Young Company, an extension of NST's Youth Theatre.

The Noise We Make was originally devised as an on-stage performance, but has been transformed into an audio drama during lockdown, offering avid theatregoers the chance to experience the production from the comfort of their own homes - or anywhere at all.

NST Young Company - who are all aged between 19 and 25 - have rehearsed, recorded and edited the collaborative production together, albeit from their separate homes. The result is an audio play which premiered on YouTube on 24 August.

Collectively written by NST Young Company, and directed by Lucy Josèphine Tiller, The Noise We Make follows twelve young people from all walks of life who find themselves stranded in a mysterious forest, memories wiped and belongings missing. They have no idea where they are, or why they are there, and as the plot unfolds, just as many questions arise as are answered.

Building an aural world is challenging, but NST Young Company has successfully tackled the limitations they have faced. The sound quality (Lead Sound Editor, Jack Halsall) is generally very good, and the addition of plentiful sound effects really offer the audience a sense of place. Crackling fires, snapping twigs and breaking glass all whisk you from your comfy living room seat and plant you exactly where the characters have found themselves. It's easy to feel in the middle of the forest with them all.

The acting is of high quality too. There is no mistaking that these characters really do feel fear and confusion, and the cast manages to bring a lot of emotion to the production without being able to rely on body language. The addition of a narrator also introduces a poetic element without too much hand-holding. The entire cast all perform to a high standard, but Aiden Schuster as Lucas, Bryn Nicholls as Arthur, Henry Roberts as Bailey, Fleur Moore as Alex, and Hannah Stedman as Stella, are particularly memorable.

As the story moves on, we find out more and more about each character. Private hopes and worries are shared, intimate details surface, and memories are revealed. The Noise We Make is a sensitive and creative exploration of relationships, mental health, self-discovery, trust and control.

With so many characters, it is somewhat hard to keep track of who's who at the start, but as the story moves on it's easy to become familiar with each personality. The Company have provided character biographies on their social media platforms, which are useful references. This art has been produced by Young Company member Rebecca Legg (who plays Beatrice), and also appears on the YouTube video too, which is a nice touch.

The story has a Truman Show-esque feel, and as we listen in to private conversations, we can't help but feel as though we are part of the mystery too. With this and the sound effects, the production is surprisingly immersive - enhanced, perhaps, by the ability to experience it individually. While it would be interesting to see the story told on stage, this could be a positive outcome of the change in circumstance and subsequent adaptation of the play.

The ending, without spoiling it, might be a little anticlimactic for some, while just steering clear of being too predictable. However, it succeeds in wrapping up the story nicely, bringing everything together, offeing a self-contained piece of theatre that leaves no stone unturned.

As we mourn the loss of a local theatre, and wait patiently to see what will take NST's place, the furnace in the belly of the organisation is still alight and burning through the creativity of the people who made up The Youth Theatre community. NST Young Company has taken the lemons they've been given, and created lemonade, not letting their theatre's closure stand in their way.

If you're comparing this audio play to some of the other professional productions that have been streaming over the last few months, it's a little unpolished. However, it's important to consider the age of the Company, the difficult environment in which this play was produced, and the quality of storytelling.

The Noise We Make is an absorbing and impressive piece of youth theatre work that gives hope to the future of Southampton and Hampshire's creative community in the wake of lockdown, while also demonstrating the importance of our young people in the arts.

We must listen to the noise these young creatives make; if this audio play is anything to go by, it'll be well worth a listen.

The Noise We Make is now available to listen to on the NST Young Company YouTube channel

Image credit: Rebecca Legg, NST Young Company

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From This Author Jo Fisher