GCSE/A Level Devised Performances

Year 10 and 12 Devised Assessments took place last week with performances of original work to family and friends. The pieces included the Year 12 performance ‘That’s What Makes Us Girls’ which was created in the style of The Paper Birds theatre company using verbatim testimony from St Laurence School students. One of the Year 12 students had opted to take on the role of Director and they were as equally proud of their cast as the teachers! The Year 10 devised pieces were based on different stimuli and we were treated to the sinister story of how ‘Jack’ got stuck in the box, the cautionary tale of ‘Peter the Puppet’, the therapeutic diaries of a diagnosed schizophrenic and uplifting stories of everyday pandemic heroes. As well as performers there were also GCSE designers for lighting, sound and costume. There is now written work to complete and we won’t find out grades until the very end of the course but congratulations to all the pupils for their excellent efforts.

It Happened on a Tuesday……

So starts Alison Carr’s play for the National Theatre Connections festival – St Laurence’s choice for their performance this year. Only 300 youth groups and schools can take part in this annual celebration of theatre so we were delighted to be accepted and the 25 string cast and crew have been working hard since September on the production. The hard work finally paid off with a performance of the show in our own Trinity Hall. This performance was watched by National Theatre director Freyja Winterson. Freyja was very complimentary about the show and she particulary like the use of the ensemble to tell this story of the day two worlds collided and ripped a tear into the sky.

One of our Year 8 students, who performed in the piece, wrote about the subsequent trip to the Salisbury Playhouse where students got to spend the day in workshops and rehearsals before performing on the main house stage.

‘Salisbury Playhouse was an awesome experience. We got to know some people who worked there, and they were very kind and helpful. We had our own room to practice Tuesday (the play) and Laura (one of the people from the playhouse) helped us improve our volume and gestures and drama skills in general with a lot of fun games. After that it was lunch, but we can skip that part! After lunch it was tech rehearsal which is basically the director taking lines from the script where the music starts or there’s a sound effect. We did that for 2 hours straight it was very tiring. When we finished the tech run there was 30 minutes left before we could have domino’s pizza so to our disappointment, we had to run the play again but a speed run where we said our lines extremely fast. It was incredibly funny. Surprisingly we managed to finish a 50-minute play in 25 minutes and finally it was our pizza break! Then it was the moment the whole cast had been waiting and rehearsing for, for over 7 months…..the play started. It finished and it went really, really well! The audience clapped and cheered at the end, during the play we got laughs and gasps and it was good to know the audience was engaging’

It happened on a Thursday at Salisbury Playhouse, and it was really really cool!’

‘I never knew theatre could be like this!’

These words bring joy to the heart of any drama teacher. It’s fair to say that the trip to see ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ was a resounding success. Students in years 8 and above were given the opportunity to watch this astonishing spectacle of story telling brought to life by the National Theatre from the original book by Neil Gaiman. Students were amazed by the effects, similar to those you might see in ‘Stranger Things’, and gripped by the lighting, sound and use of puppetry. ‘It’s nothing like panto’ remarked one Year 9 – and they were quite right! But the most pleasing comment of the night goes to a Year 10 student who – in all seriousness – said to me as we left the Bath Theatre Royal ‘I can’t wait to write about this!’

Devising Inspiration with the Paper Birds

Year 10 and Year 12 students were treated to a workshop with verbatim theatre company ‘The Paper Birds’. Founder and Artistic Director Kylie Perry put the students through their paces and helped them to shape their own performances prior to their assessment on 23rd March. Year 12 were particularly pleased with the time they spent with Kylie as the theatre company is on the AQA set practitioners list and they have chosen to devise in the unique style of the Paper Birds. This was an excellent opportunity to get first hand advice and support to help them develop their own piece. One Year 12 student writes of the session:

As the Year 12 A-Level Devising Performance is fast approaching on the 23 March, Artistic Director Kylie Perry from The Paper Birds was kind enough to run a workshop with us. She shared some ‘behind the scenes’ tips about her work style and helped us develop our umbrella theme of Girlhood by adding a central storyline to the piece.

As well as that, she told us more about Paper Birds’ verbatim theatrical style and helped us put our word-for-word testimonies from interviews we’ve done around our theme on their feet with fun drama exercises. 

Finally, Kylie left us with one important tip: she advised us to ‘provoke change through the theatre we create in the most breath-taking, dramatic way we envision’.

The workshops certainly inspired the students and we look forward to seeing the finished pieces later this term

The Return of the ‘Live’ Examiner!

Year 11 GCSE and Year 13 A Level students took us one more step back to ‘normality’ with performances of their scripted extracts to a real live examiner! During the ‘COVID’ years these scripted assessments either did not happen or were recorded and sent to the examiner who assessed them remotely. It was wonderful to welcome both an A Level and a GCSE examiner back into school last week for what amounts to 20% of both qualifications.

The Year 13 pupils performed an extract from ‘The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband’ by Debbie Issitt whilst the Year 11’s performed from a variety of plays including ‘DNA’ by Dennis Kelly, ‘The Queen Must Die’ by David Farr and ‘Pink Mist’ by Owen Shears. The pupils also performed their pieces the night before to an invited audience of family and friends which helped settle the inevitable nerves.

We were very proud of the way the students conducted themselves and one of the examiners praised them for their ‘professional and polite’ attitude. Well done to everyone involved and we wait with interest to see what the results will be in the summer………

Just ‘As You Like It’

Year 8 & 9 pupils (with the addition of an awesome year 10 who stepped in at the last minute) travelled to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol to perform their version of ‘As You Like It’ for the Coram Shakespeare School’s Festival. The 1970s were brought to life by an outstanding performance of Shakespeare’s comedy directed by Headteacher Mr Farrer and Drama teacher Mrs Warren. The cast were also ably supported by a tech team of two pupils, supervised by Mr Parker

Mr Farrer writes:

It’s a very tricky play as there are so many different characters, each having some kind of interaction with one another, across 2 different settings as well as a few ‘cheats’ from Shakespeare to round the story off neatly so the key to success was clear storytelling and good characterisation. We set it in the 70s disco era using music, lighting and costume to bring it to life and having two students run the tech was brilliant; well done to them!

Performing at the Tobacco Factory was a real treat. As a professional theatre, we had full access to the sound and lighting rigs, as well as a stage manager, dressing rooms etc. We had a full technical rehearsal, followed by a dress and then had the honour of opening the night

Well done to everyone in the cast. Mrs Warren, Mr Parker and I were very proud

As You Like It Workshop

As we get closer to the date of the performance of this year’s entry for the Schools Shakespeare Festival (save the date – 25th January!) preparations are moving on rapidly.

The latest step towards this was the visit by a member of the SSF team to run a workshop with the cast and crew to explore important elements of their performance. Peta Maurice worked with the Year 8 and 9 students on their stagecraft, giving the group her Top Tips for being on stage as well as looking at vocal exercises. The group then went on to look at staging the final scenes of the play.

The students had a great time and were really focused on a day that was long and challenging for them. AS YOU LIKE IT is going to be amazing when we take it to the Tobacco Factory, Bristol in January. Watch out for information on how you can see the show!

Visit to The Salisbury Playhouse

The casts of NT Connections and the Shakespeare School’s Festival took a break from rehearsals to travel to the Salisbury Playhouse to watch the Ramps on the Moon production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. This performance was full inclusive and featured the innovative use of audio description, captioning as well as British Sign Language. The SSF appreciated the opportunity to watch another play by the Bard whilst the NT Connections cast and crew were excited to see the stage they will be performing on in March 2023. The students were excellent company – with members of staff and the audience commenting on their exemplary behaviour.

What the students said

I was moved by how accessible it was to people and how it showed many unique and talented actors because it will impact greatly on the younger children there, and for people that share the same condition as the actors, they will gain a role model. I cannot stress enough how much joy this could and will bring to someone.

I found the highlight of the show to be the outstanding work that the design team put into the set and lighting.

Overall this play was enjoyable to watch for everyone, it was beautifully and compassionately created the experience accessible for all.

Drama Awards 2022

Students from across the year groups and their invited guests got together to celebrate the Drama season 2021/2022 with an ‘Oscars’ style awards evening. Local celebrity Jon Monie, whose filming schedule prevented him being there in person, opened the proceedings with a recorded, but nevertheless, inspiring speech about the importance of taking part in the Arts and the benefits it can bring. The seven categories were then announced – including ‘Best Debut Performer’ to ‘The Technical Award’ and the ‘Drama Department’s Star of the Year’. All those who particpated in the season were rewarded with a certifcate but only the seven winners were presented with a special ‘St Laurence’ oscar style statuette. These will prove to be highly sought after, as one student remarked afterwards ‘I’m going to work really hard and get one of those next year!’ This was the first time the Drama Awards have been held but we are already looking forward to celebrating this season next year! Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and to everyone who made last year’s Drama season such an enjoyable and successful one.

Hot Off The Press!

We are absolutely thrilled to have been chosen as one of only 300 school and youth groups across the UK to take part in the National Theatre Connections programme 2023. Mrs Warren and Mrs Nash are busy reading ten specially commissioned plays in preparation for choosing which we will perform – firstly at school then at the SALISBURY PLAYHOUSE in March!! One production of each of the ten plays also gets selected to perform at the NATIONAL THEATRE in London – but one step at a time!! Thank you @NTConnections for selecting us – we can’t wait to start work!