Stuff you remember – isn’t quite the answer to give the educational sphinx when it drily asks you “What’s education all about, then?” but it’s not a million miles away. You certainly always remember what you did on stage – or what you did behind the scenes to make the production happen. I am sure that none of the 15 cast, 4 musicians, 9 crew and 4 student choreographers and directors will forget 13 The Musical which ran over 3 nights to increasingly large houses, finishing with a full one – not bad for a musical whose actors and musicians came entirely from Blocks 3 and 4. This was a production of a new piece (2009) that, unusually, is designed to be performed by people who are about the same age as its title. Being about starting out (suitably cheesy metaphor coming up) down the winding path of adulthood, there is something touching and funny about seeing it done by people who are doing just that. There are some splendidly catchy numbers, plenty of pathos, bags of humour and oodles of shameless cheesiness: all brought off with panache, colour, style and bags of onstage personality by our Block 3 and 4 actors. Describing drama as “the best team sport” has always rather annoyed me as an expression – partly because it sets drama against team sport as if the latter is a universal measure but also because it lazily does not get to the heart of what is going on in a young production like the one some 500 people saw over the past few days. You are doing something very bold and tricky – for anyone, especially if you are 14 or 15, who is, as Atticus Finch describes so memorably in To Kill a Mockingbird, getting inside someone else’s skin and walking around, and you are laying yourself open to scrutiny; all this whilst having to combine all sorts of activities at once – walking, talking, dancing, singing, smiling – things which no human does naturally in conjunction, especially if he is an adolescent male. Much though I love team sports and much though I set out not to compare drama to them, drama, requiring all this and then achieving that magical alchemy of audience and actor is a wonderful feat. This stuff also creates a different kind of imprint on the long term memory – and, I guess, has a huge influence on the vital intangibles of personal growth: self-confidence, rapport and (an on message word, to end on, this) chutzpah.
By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.