When I got a part in a Questors Youth Theatre production in 2007 I would never have guessed I would end up performing it in an empty swimming pool in Vienna.
But this year it took us even further - to Vienna and the very first World Festival of Youth Theatre. Cogner was chosen to represent the United Kingdom and so, in July, we joined over 150 young actors from youth theatres from as far afield as Singapore and Slovakia, Israel and Ireland - for ten days of international drama workshops, where we got the chance to explore just how effective theatre can be in breaking down language barriers.
Throughout our 10 days in Austria, not only did we get to perform Cogner but we were also able to watch each of the other countries' performances and collaborate to create a devised work which we all performed in the streets of Vienna's famous Museums Quarter.
The workshops were an excellent experience. Each member was from a different country, and whilst almost everyone spoke extremely good English it was not their first language, so we focused on physical theatre and on conveying a message or idea without the use of words. We created abstract, movement-based pieces that also incorporated styles and themes from the plays we had seen from other countries. This gave us a unique opportunity to learn from each other, and the diverse range of performance styles showcased at the festival - from Lithuanian clowns to a Singaporean Animal Farm.
Our performance of Cogner was certainly memorable. We were staying in a huge boarding school just outside Vienna, with fantastic facilities where everyone else chose either the studio space or the main theatre to perform their plays. But we opted for an empty, disused, graffiti-covered swimming pool in the middle of a small wood. This suited our play - which was mainly set on a housing estate on the outskirts of Paris and dealt with the racism, poverty and police brutality that had led to riots in France shortly before the play was written. Our outdoor location and a multilingual audience required a different style of performance - and lots more projection! Happily the response we got was extremely positive. Everyone followed the plot, loved the performance space, and the energy we brought to the piece - and we had great fun re-inventing the play for a whole new audience.
We headed back to the UK exhausted but happy - with fantastic memories and an international collection of friends on Facebook!