Theatre should give people a sense of community and identity, and the KES Drama department aims to nurture and encourage this sense of community through participation in school plays, drama clubs, theatre trips and professional workshops, as well as their collaborative style of working during lessons.
We put on three spectacular productions each year, one aimed at Years 10-13, one for Years 7-8 and the third for Year 9. Our shows are renowned for their exceptionally high professional standards, their creativity, physicality and colour. Pupils are privileged to work alongside professional costume designers and technicians and in the case of Fiddler on the Roof and Beauty and the Beast, they worked with professional musicians as well. We have also recently collaborated with colleagues, Catherine Bruton and Mark Boden, to write and produce an original musical called POP! from which pupils were also able to record a live studio album of the new songs.
Flickr album: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
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We also offer the opportunity for pupils to take part in different festivals. Over the last few years pupils have been to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing pieces such as Takeaway by Jackie Kay and Kneehigh’s Hansel and Gretel, both of which received great reviews. We have also taken part in the National Theatre Connections Festival, gaining the opportunity to perform at the Egg Theatre in Bath.
All Drama exam pupils are expected to attend a minimum of four live theatre shows a year, and by the end of their studies at KES it is hoped that they will have seen some of the most inspiring companies in the country perform in some of the nation’s most prestigious venues; including The Globe, The National Theatre, The Swan and The Royal Court. The shows we go to watch, are often challenging, ground breaking and inspiring. And it isn’t just the older pupils who benefit from these trips; Year 9 pupils are taken to their set text production every year, and recent trips for Years 7 and 8 have included West Side Story, The Lion King, The Woman in Black and Shrek the Musical. To encourage a sense of passion for drama and to gain a better understanding of life in the industry, we often enhance our teaching with visiting workshops from outside practitioners and professionals. In recent years, these workshops have included physical theatre, stage combat, lighting design, film, and devising workshops with the renowned Gecko team and performers from award-winning Frantic Assembly.
In addition to the plays and trips, we offer two drama clubs, a popular tech club run by our in-house professional technician and a plethora of performance opportunities. Year 7 and 8 pupils are offered the opportunity to perform in the inter-form drama competition and there is an annual Duologue competition in which pupils compete to win the prestigious trophies. We continue to offer one-to-one lessons for LAMDA and last year those pupils who were entered by the School received merit or distinction in their acting exams. This aspect of our teaching has continued to increase over the last few years and has proved extremely successful in honing the dramatic skills and confidence of individuals. We also have a tradition of leavers returning to help direct, choreograph or assist with musical direction of the main school play. We are now in our fifth year of offering internships for promising drama scholars who wish to continue developing their theatrical experience during their gap years before starting their drama courses.
Independent School of the Year for Performing Arts 2018 Independent School Parent Magazine
Technical Theatre Club
Many people do not realise that there is a career in technical theatre. In fact there are a wide range of jobs behind the scenes in theatre. In Tech Club we try to learn as much as possible about these career paths, and then in school productions, we put these roles into practise. We learn about the design process in lighting, sound, set and costume, as well as being able to explore the skills required to become a professional member of the stage management team. Pupils involved in shows can take up assistant stage management or operational roles, which is a realistic starting point in theatre. These roles help enhance key skills such as time management, teamwork, organisation, knowledge of health and safety and problem solving. We learn about lighting and sound design and their operation, with many pupils then taking on associated roles during school events throughout the year to support our Upper and Lower School main productions, as well as Open Day events, Duologue competitions and even the Year 7 disco! Many of the skills learnt in tech club transfer to other clubs. For example, many of our members also join the CCF in Year 9, where working together and problem solving are crucial key skills. Pupils have also used tech club as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award, or as part of their UCAS application form.
The Rose, our state-of-the art drama centre, opened recently and incorporates two full-size studios and additional teaching spaces. The two-storey facility provides a new hub for drama at the Senior School and is used in conjunction with the established Wroughton Theatre as a specialist teaching setting for Drama and LAMDA lessons, as well as a performance venue in its own right.
Flickr album: The opening of The Rose Drama Centre
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