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Unexpected Conversations: Chat Back

Each year, the National Theatre hosts NT Connections, in which 10 new plays are commissioned for young people to perform, bringing together some of the UK's most exciting writers with the theatre-makers of tomorrow. Earlier this year, we were delighted to announce that we were successful in becoming one of the 300 youth theatres in the country selected to produce a Connections play this year. On the 28th of April 2022, our talented Ensemble group will perform David Judge’s Chat Back at the iconic MAST Theatre in Southampton.

Described by the playwright as “a lyrical slap in the face and a kick to the heart”, Chat Back tells the story of “the underclass” – all those young people who are “bad”, disempowered, alienated, ostracised, and abandoned. We watch a snapshot of the lives of each individual (across a long summer holiday) as they discover their identity, their economic power (or lack thereof), their lyrical dexterity (or, similarly, their lack thereof) and the meaning of their lives, all told using raw, uncompromising dialogue that boldly experiments with rhyme and rhythm.

The Ensemble group are currently in the throes of rehearsals, but a few of the cast members have carved out the time to answer some questions for us, including their thoughts on the play, how the rehearsal process is going - and what it was like to have a Zoom call with David Judge himself!

What was it like hearing David Judge talk about the play?

Sophia: It was interesting and informative to learn more about the inspiration behind the show. It also was awesome to see his passion for this project. I think it inspired us to push ourselves that little bit further during the rehearsal period to give the script the justice it deserved.

Eloise: It was so inspiring to see his passion for the play and for the characters; I'm honoured to share his story by performing in Chat Back.

Cora: It was amazing to see his genuine enthusiasm for the play. The fact that a lot of it was based on his own life made it feel more real and raw.

Which three words would you use to describe the play?

Sophia: Unfiltered, Unapologetic, Raw.

Georgina: Raw, Open, Real.

André: Brutal, Shocking, Informative.

Eloise: Energetic, Emotional, Honest.

Lois: Real, Emotional, Moral.

Cora: Honest, Harsh, Eye-Opening.

How are rehearsals going?

Eloise: They are really fun and exciting! I always look forward to every rehearsal. Everyone's always on board and open to sharing ideas.

Have you ever met/spoken to a playwright before?

Eloise: I don't think so; having the opportunity to ask David questions was such a great experience.

What did you learn about the play from that Zoom call?

Georgina: It is a very real experience for many people out there.

Sophia: David Judge is a little bit like J.B. Priestley, in that he shows the more fortunate (in this case, the older generation) just how bad some young people’s lives can be; it isn’t all just partying and hanging out with mates.

Eloise: It's supposed to be shocking and chaotic, and it's based on very real experiences.

Cora: It is meant to have a great impact on the audience and shed light on important issues. It needs to be unapologetic.

Lois: It was written with the goal of enlightening the audience.

What do you like about this play?

Georgina: It just feels so real and relatable. I think everyone is going through something that one of the characters may be experiencing.

Ayla: I like how it highlights problems and issues some teenagers really experience. The play doesn’t hold back, which makes it all the more real and powerful.

Eloise: It doesn't hold back or apologise. It tells it as it is and you just have to take it. The characters are very loveable and vulnerable, even when they do morally questionable things. They all have their reasons.

Lois: It’s unlike any other show I’ve performed in before. I also really like its underlying moral message.

Why should you come to see this play?

Georgina: It’s a fresh, raw way of showing the hardships that this generation and every generation of teenagers face: hardships from society and adults not understanding. But this play aims to fix that.

Sophia: It’s a new and exciting take on Generation Z. It unites people from all walks of life to experience the world of Chat Back and to see what it is truly like to be a teenager during this day and age. Chat Back will entertain you, but also leave you with a brutal message to meditate on after the curtain call.

André: It shows adults what life is like for younger generations.

Eloise: It shows you situations you didn't realise other people could be facing and makes you confront your prejudices. It touches on so many themes that it will be relatable to everyone. It's influential and new; I've never seen anything like it.

What are you looking forward to working on during this project?

André: Exploring my character and seeing how the other characters morph and change during the play’s narrative.

Sophia: Seeing how we as a company can bring this play to life. I am also looking forward to understanding and exploring my character in further depth.

Eloise: Deeper character work, as well as helping to direct the play. The emotion, motives and blocking will be really interesting to work on.

Lois: Having the opportunity to perform in a big, well-renowned theatre, as well as shedding light on some of the hardships modern young people endure.

Tickets for our performance of Chat Back at MAST are available to book now.

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