Industry professionals inspire at Drama department’s Wednesday Workshops

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

Throughout the Autumn term, the industry based drama Wednesday workshops have continued, a wonderful opportunity for students to meet and hear from experts in the field.

Actor and drama school audition coach Martha Dancy has continued to work with 6.2 students who are looking to further their study after Bedales to prepare for a career in drama. Her help and guidance has been wholly appreciated by myself and the students, especially this year when the audition process is more varied and virtual than before. 

Our ultimate Wednesday workshop was a real treat. The kindness of professionals in the field during these challenging COVID related times has astounded me. How gracious and giving they have been with their time and how willing they have been to share their expertise. Kate Winslet encompassed this and more. She approached me to ask what she could do to help the Drama department and subsequently gave her up her afternoon to inspire our students with her top tips.  These will stay with them, I am sure, for a lifetime, but what will also stay with them was her wonderfully open, honest and down to earth manner which I and they appreciated so much.

Read students’ accounts of the workshops below.

By Caitlin Layhe Nugent, 6.2

In our first week, Martha talked us through personal statements and how to tailor them to conservatoires. Her insight on the drama school application process is invaluable and we’ve been incredibly lucky that she was kind enough to set time aside to teach us about that process and how it differs from place to place and how best to meet those needs.

By August Janklow, 6.2

Our third session was focused on self tapes. Martha ran us through the proper techniques to use when filming such as: lighting, angle, and eye line. We were instructed to deliver our lines as if there was someone sat behind the camera, reason being that our faces had to be in full focus. This among other things helped us feel more comfortable approaching drama school applications this year.

By Gus McQuillin, 6.2

A Shakespearean monologue properly prepared, is a great way of impressing a drama school during their auditions. Following a few previous sessions with Martha, she had got to learn more about me and how I generally behave and act as a person. This then enabled her to suggest a piece from Romeo and Juliet that she thought would  be a good mix of familiarity but also challenging enough that it isn’t staid and obvious. We were happy with Romeo and Juliet as I know the play, the plot and the dynamics between the characters and their relationships. Martha gave me some fantastic tips to help me become more comfortable with the piece. One was to look up the definition of any words that I didn’t completely understand, allowing me to see how they make sense and then form a coherent speech. She also advised that I completely translate the piece into my vernacular thereby basically modernising the piece so that I could conceptualise how the words might have been said in their time.

By Kit Mayhook-Walker, 6.1

On 9 December, Bedales Drama students were treated to a Wednesday workshop with the Oscar-winning actor, Kate Winslet. During the two and an half hour workshop, Kate answered students’ questions in great detail about her early acting career, the steps she takes getting into character, her favourite performances and her thought-processes behind her performances. She also led a short, scripted scene from the play The White Bike, which was previously a BAC scripted piece. She asked the two actors on stage various questions ranging from when did the characters meet to what their driving ambitions are, as a way of getting behind a character and grounding them in realism. This was followed by an improvisation with a 6.2 drama student where the audience gave them all the information; their names, ages, jobs, the scenario the scene takes place in. Everyone in attendance found this workshop extremely helpful for their future dramatic projects and we hope to see more of Kate in the New Year.

A break from tradition for Autumn production

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

Our Autumn Production this year is Constellations by Nick Payne, which will be performed on four consecutive nights from 7-10 December, with two performances livestreamed for parents at home. A two hander about a couple, their relationship, quantum physics and most importantly love. It follows their journey and the multiple universe theory which means we see the various outcomes of each stage in their relationship. Not exactly your traditional Christmas production, but we never produce traditional productions here.

In previous years our Autumn Production has involved students from the whole school, across all year groups, with a cast and crew totalling more than 50. We have devised our own work, chosen cutting edge musical theatre, Greek tragedy, contemporary texts and adapted work to honour the First World War. But this year, obviously, things are different. The safety of our students and staff is paramount but at the same time we wanted to celebrate the fact we are open again as a school, a creative school, and able to perform again in the theatre. Whilst our numbers are restricted, both on stage and in the auditorium, and social distancing rules must be applied, I didn’t want it to restrict our innovative approach, nor the students’ theatrical experience.

Having watched Lungs at the Old Vic during lockdown, I was inspired by the chemistry Matt Smith and Clare Foy showed on stage and the fact that the chemistry existed despite the metre plus distance between them. This led me to look at similar plays and that’s where I landed at Constellations, a play I have loved for some time but not found the right platform for. However, I needed it to be more inclusive and to give more opportunities to more students. Focusing on the original intention of the play, our interpretation shows the possibilities that exist to anyone anywhere and scenes are explored with different genders and languages as well as sign language. We see the multiple outcomes of this relationship which could have affected any two people, anywhere in the world. Two duplicate casts of eight perform the scenes and transition with dancers who explore the themes of bee keeping, endless love, quantum physics, past, present and future. 

So, whilst the COVID Christmas term has been challenging, it has by no means hampered out creativity and we look forward to sharing our work; in person with the student and staff body and virtually (via live streaming) to parents, next week.   

‘Around the World in 80 Days’ review

By Maddie Jefferies, 6.1

Around the World in 80 Days was a high spirited and energetic performance. The set was beautifully crafted, linking in the theme of time through clocks and cogs printed on the stage and on the screens that hung over the traverse. This type of stage gave a more inclusive feel and allowed the actors to interact and engage with the audience at breakneck speed.

The music was vibrant and contemporary, drawing the audience into Phileas Fogg’s journey. Dev Mannion as Fogg led the piece with confidence and poise. The Passepartouts (Elio Mazas and Blu Schneider-Marsan), a French butler whose part had been split into two, bounced off each other as a comic duo, entertaining us at every turn. In addition, the unamused detectives Fox and Fix (Freddie Pape and Otto Hall) kept us all laughing as they tried in vain to capture Fogg.

These characters were complimented by a huge cast who changed role in virtually every scene, bringing great energy and commitment to each moment. The actors moved seamlessly on stage, taking the audience with them on a journey around the world – from the busy streets of Italy to entrancing scenes in Hong Kong, before encountering the crazy circus of San Francisco. In addition, the fast paced narrative was interspersed with moments of uplifting dances. The choreography was outstanding, beautiful and moving, especially the romantic dance on board the Mongolia.

This was a high quality, feel good show – just what we all needed at the end of a busy term!

See and buy photos from Around the World in 80 Days here.