Mrs King, Head of Drama gives us a low down on this years Drama trip to London
In the first of two trips, the A-level group left the island at an hour unknown to most teens (and indeed Mrs King!), with a meet at the airport of 05:30. After a short flight over to Gatwick, the group caught the train into central London to their accommodation for the weekend. Having dropped off their luggage, it was over to Covent Garden for a little culture (and shopping); the group were lucky enough to see Opera singers, as well as a string trio in the piazza and enjoyed a wander through this famous London area. After a hearty Mexican lunch, it was time for the first of the group's workshops, this one on Brecht, which is the practitioner all groups have chosen for their first exam piece. The workshop was stretching and offered new perspectives on how to approach some of the characters in their pieces. In the evening, it was down to the Duches Theatre for 'The Play That Goes Wrong' - which was agreed hilarious and excellent by all. A great piece of farce as inspiration for one of their set texts, the play was a huge success with the students (and indeed the rest of the packed audience).
Saturday heralded the second the workshops - Clowning. The group had an excellent practitioner from whom to learn and it was a pleasure to see the students throw themselves into this kind of physical comedy. I was very proud of their team spirit and commitment. After a quick lunch around Oxford Circus, it was then tie to head over to the Sam Wanamaker Theatre (the indoor theatre at Shakespeare's Globe) for 'Titus Andronicus'. The play was lit entirely by candlelight and, while our standing area was perhaps not the most comfortable, it was a fantastic rendition of this revenge tragedy, with candles representing the death and destruction in this famously bloody play.
Nandos provided a much needed sit down before the last of our productions: 'Sylvia' at the Old Vic. This hip hop musical charted the suffragette movement, following the lesser known the Pankhurst daughters, who fought for equal right for all (including working class men), not just women. This was an excellent production and it was powerful to see the entire theatre rise to its feet for an ovation at the end. Tired, but buzzing, it was time to head home the following day...
The GCSE trip followed closely on the heels of the A-level group and followed a similar pattern of activities and began with an equally unearthly hour in the morning on the Friday. This time, however, there was a group of 40 students all heading to London, to their accommodation and on to Covent Garden. After lunch (well done to the restaurant who managed to serve 40 hungry students and four staff!) it was time for a Physical Theatre workshop at Pineapple Studios, home to rehearsal and auditions of many west end shows. It was a joy to see the Lower Five and Upper Five students work together to produce some really interesting work - well done to you all for your kindness, bravery and team work.
The first production we saw that weekend was 'Noises Off' - the penultimate show of a sell-out run! A tour de force of writing, Michael Frayn's comedy shows both on and off-stage at a touring theatre company, with the action growing ever more comic and physical. Though it's fair to say, the students were tired after their early start, the play was a great example of farce at its clever best and enough to keep us on our toes throughout.
After a good rest - and a big buffet breakfast - the next morning, it was time to head for the second of the workshops or this group, again on Clowning. Divided this time, both the Lower Five and Upper Five students threw themselves into the workshops and learned some great comic skills. After a quick lunch, it was then time for the matinee of 'Back To The Future'. What an epic production! The technology in the show was astounding and a real 'West End splash'. It was impossible not to get swept along with this full-of-fun musical, with everything from amazing dance routines, lighting effects and even a flying car! Everyone left with a smile on their faces.
For the last production, we split into to groups: one to see 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (previously enjoyed by the A-level group) and one to see 'Phaedra' at the National Theatre, a new adaptation based on the original Greek tragedy. The acting in the latter was second to none and, while it was mature in theme, the students behaved admirably and were swept along with the on-pointe performances and clever set, which changed from a naturalistic restaurant to a snow scape in a flash - all scenes being played in a revolving glass box.
meeting up again that evening at the accommodation, it was clear that both groups had enjoyed their respective performances and there was a lot of buzz about all that they had seen during the trip.
On the Sunday, the group went for an enrichment visit to the Victoria and Albert museum in South Kensington and headed for the theatre exhibition, which is currently focusing on musical theatre, but which also encompasses sets, costumes etc for a range of productions. What a wonderful way to end our time in London.
After that, it was on the train back to the station and back on our flight home. The flight, however, took a very long time and circuitous route, eventually heading us back to Gatwick and then eventually onto our island home. I was most impressed with the behaviour of our students on this 4 hour flight (!) and this was also noted by a member of the public, who took the time to register how impressed he was with a phone call to the school. Well done, Folks.
I am delighted to have seen both the A-level and GCSE students thrive on their respective trips and am very grateful to those staff who accompanied myself and the students and kept them safe : Mr Hale on the A-level trip, Mrs Montague, Ms Ace-Hopkins and Mrs Thompson on the GCSE trip. Thank you so much for your support in offering this amazing opportunity to our students to grow, explore and experience some wonderful, enriching theatrical experience.