Drama at Blundell's

Drama at Blundell’s

  • Desire to celebrate the power of drama and to transport maker and spectator
  • Determination to work in a thoroughly professional way in pursuit of high standards but without losing a sense of playfulness
  • Passion to keep learning and encountering new influences
  • Belief in teaching the art of the playwright, director, designer, technician and critic as much as the art of the actor

Drama Review 2014-2015

This year has been a particularly special one for the Drama Department as we celebrated 25 years in our wonderful purpose-built theatre, the Ondaatje Hall. The building was made possible by the very generous gift of Sir Christopher Ondaatje C.B.E., O.C. who came to Blundell’s in 1947, boarding at Petergate. Since its opening in 1989, we estimate that the theatre has hosted in excess of 300 productions and many more events and celebrations.

To mark this very special landmark, our School Play this year was ‘Lorna Doone’ written by another distinguished OB, R.D. Blackmore. DramaWe followed Lorna Doone by entering the glitzy world of 1920’s Chicago with School House’s production of the musical Bugsy Malone, directed by Lucy Elzik. The end of our academic year saw a very successful run of the Year 9/10 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by our Artistic Director, James Rochfort.

The creative industries are now worth £8m per hour to the UK economy and with verbal communication and teamwork topping the list for skills required by employers, Drama remains a crucial part of the curriculum as our very strong GCSE and A levels numbers prove. We have staged seven academic productions this year with some moving and accomplished performances as well as some inspiring set, costume and lighting and sound designs created by our Performance Support Candidates.

Our academic programme started with the Year 13’s devised piece, ‘Crying For You’. Inspired by the real life story of Grace & David Idowu and the Restorative Justice scheme, the students conducted intensive research and worked as a group to write, design and perform their own production. There were six AS and GCSE performances this year, transporting us from a 1930’s drawing room in J B Priestley’s Dangerous Corner to a prison cell in Kabul in Frank McGuiness’ Someone to Watch Over Me, via a 1960’s student’s flat in Huddersfield courtesy of David Halliwell’s Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against the Eunuchs. We are fortunate to be working in a theatre with professional-standard facilities enabling us to offer students the Performance Support option for GCSE and A Level. DramaThis year, eleven students took this option and their individual designs for these productions were thoroughly considered, carefully planned and crucial to the success of the performances.

It is very important to us that students have as much opportunity as possible to experience professional theatre and this year we have taken groups to see Frantic Assembly’s highly-acclaimed and explosive version of Othello and Simon Stephen’s electric stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

This year, we have been fortunate to add two new staff members to the Department. Rachel Milne has joined us from Taunton School to teach LAMDA Speech & Drama. Previously a Drama teacher at Blundell’s, Rachel has rejoined our team after taking a break to have her family. Rachel has been instrumental in maintaining our strong LAMDA numbers and helping our students achieve outstanding results. And she still has time to tread the boards herself! At the end of the year we bid a fond farewell to Roger Winwood as he left to take up a new opportunity in the Ukraine and in January, Ben Bowley joined us as our new Theatre Manager and brought with him a wealth of experience.

In April, the Art, Music and Drama Departments enjoyed our inaugural Creative Arts Dinner to celebrate the successes of our three Departments. Spearheaded by Drama Scholar and Captain of Drama, Kiera McMaster and organised by the students, over 80 staff and students enjoyed a very successful evening. DramaOur guest speaker for the evening was Jen Longden, OB who gave a very inspiring speech to the students about the importance of the creative arts and the transferable skills they equip you with, no matter what walk of life you follow. And she should know, working as an extremely successful HR consultant in London and performing stand-up comedy on the side!

Another year has flown by but in writing this review and sharing some of our highlights, I realise how much we have squeezed into this year. One of the highlights was obviously our very pleasing exam results: 100% of our students achieved A*-C with over 60% of the AS students achieving at least a B and 50% of the GCSE students were awarded an A or A*.

We have already started planning for the new academic year and one highlight will be our production of ‘Street Child’ in February 2016. For this first time, we have decided to combine this year’s School House play and Senior play into one large-scale production. Street Child is the gritty and moving story of one boy’s journey through the streets of Victorian London and the founding of the world-famous Dr. Barnardo’s children’s homes. It promises to be an incredibly exciting production with original songs written by the music department and a cast of over sixty.

We look forward with anticipation to this and everything that the New Year will bring to the Drama Department. I’d also like to thank all the Drama staff for their unfailing dedication to the students and enthusiasm for our subject.

TLW