THE SHOW MUST GO ON

With performance and rehearsal restrictions in place, the Drama Department had significant challenges to overcome this term to bring us two superb preformances.

By Mr James Robinson, Director of Drama

If things had been different, Twelfth Night would have been performed as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival at the New Theatre Royal in mid-November (not long before A Chorus Line). But things were very different, and given that we already had a lovely, enthusiastic and talented cast looking forward to getting stuck in to some rich Shakespearean acting, we needed to find a way to go ahead. And so we found ourselves in an empty DRT on Friday 27th November this year, apart from three cameras, a vision mixing 'caravan', lots of cable, and a very nervous bubble of actors about to become the first cast ever to stream live from PGS.

They didn't disappoint. Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's loveliest comedies, full of life and love and miscommunication, and the actors gave it full effort and extracted maximum value, delivering performances which were fresh, vital and totally on the money. The scenes between Faye Russell's Olivia and Ana Powell Ramalal's Viola were beautifully judged, with the camera giving immediacy and intimacy to their complex relationship. The latter's interactions with Isabel Richardson (Orsino) were subtle and comedic, as Viola struggles to contain her true identity as her love for the Count grows. And as the straight-laced, passive-agressive Malvolio, Eddie Robinson was a comic delight, especially when the 'yellow stockings' emerge towards the end.

As a first streamed production, Twelfth Night was a real success, and whilst we would all rather have audience 'in house', it allowed a wide range of viewers to access the play from a very different perspective. Congratulations to all involved in this lovely performance.

By Mr James Gulliford, Director-in-Residence

The experience of mounting this year’s Senior School Musical A Chorus Line has been unlike any other. The pandemic forced the show to be organised, rehearsed, and eventually performed in very unconventional ways.

One early roadblock was having to divide the company into small safe "bubbles" meaning everything had to be rehearsed multiple times whilst simultaneously losing rehearsal spaces and time that past productions have enjoyed. This essentially cut our time to mount the show to 25% of our normal time allowance, an incredibly daunting concept. However, Mr Robinson, the Director of Drama, along with the rest of the creative team managed to think outside the box with creative approaches to timetabling that, whilst not ideal, managed to work in tandem with the fragmented nature of the show (and thank goodness it was only one act!). By early November we were thinking, "Hurray, we might be able to pull this off!"

Then a second lockdown was announced. Not only would this remove weekend rehearsals altogether, but it also ran into production week. This very nearly cancelled the show that the cast and creatives had spent so long tirelessly working on. However, the school alongside the New Theatre Royal came to the rescue finding even more creative ways to rejig timetables, meaning we could still go ahead. I am still astounded by the determination from all parties that would not allow this production to fail (clearly, the show really must go on!).

None of this could have been possible without the remarkable hard work and dedication showed by the cast of the show, along with the support of their families. As a professional actor myself, the bravery and commitment that they showed every day at rehearsals was truly commendable and inspiring.

The unsung heroes of the show are most certainly the technical team of stage management, lighting, sound and of course camera. To anyone who was able to catch the stream, I'm sure you will agree none of us expected the show to be shot in such a professional and impressive way. Seven cameras, all working perfectly in sync whilst being edited and streamed out live is no easy feat and the camera team should be immensely proud of what they achieved - the National Theatre should be taking notes!

All in all, whilst this year’s show has provided challenges unlike any other, it has also been one of the most rewarding. There was a real release of emotion in the final moments of the last stream, a palpable sense of a breath being released that had been held for three months. We actually did it. But not only that, these struggles had brought this whole company very close together, we were all required to trust each other more than ever this year and that brought with it a real sense of community. The end result was something truly unforgettable.