By Eve Allin, Bedales Events Programme Coordinator
Thank you for your support of the Bedales Events programme over the past year. We are delighted to announce that we are returning in the Autumn Term with a full programme of events. The new season brings the sunshine inside with a packed line up of live performances. Let’s celebrate our collective love of the arts: come and watch comedy, music, theatre, and poetry right on your doorstep.
After what will be nearly 18 months of the live arts sector being closed for business, we are jubilant at the prospect of bringing events back to Bedales. We are confident you will enjoy this season as much as we enjoyed creating it. You can book your tickets for the Autumn season now at bedales.org.uk/events.
Starting off with an old favourite, Hackney Colliery Band are ready to raise the roof with their foot-stomping covers and original music. Later in September, the HandleBards are cycling over to us, set and costume slung over their shoulders: bring your picnic blankets for their all-female, outdoor version of Macbeth. Red Fox Theatre bring the warmth of a traditional pub theatre to the Lupton Hall, combining music and puppetry with captivating storytelling in Catch of the Day.
The best and brightest in the country join us for talks and lectures including furniture maker and industrial designer Sebastian Bergne, AI expert and co-founder of CognitionX Tabitha Goldstaub (OB) and inspirational headteacher Tony Hartney CBE. Families and young audiences are treated to a choose-your-own-adventure spectacular from friends of Bedales, Quick Duck Theatre. If it is comedy that piques your interest, but you are looking for an evening out after so many evenings in; The Noise Next Door are back again to entertain, enthral and surprise.
As the nights draw in, Phosphoros Theatre arrive to ignite our hearts and minds – ‘All the beds I have slept in’ is an insightful and stirring piece of theatre made by lived experience refugee performers. Cecilia Knapp, Poet Laureate for London, returns to Bedales in November to spend an evening reading poetry, answering questions and teaching students. Benny Wenda joins us for the annual Global Awareness Lecture – this talk has been an opportunity delayed and we are very lucky to have Benny joining us in December.
Woven in between all these brilliant visiting artists is our renowned Home Grown work – two school shows, two contemporary music events, four classical concerts, and two Theatre Studies exam pieces. These are performances created and staged at the heart of Bedales by the wonderful students that study here.
By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama and Liz Wood, Head of Dance
Despite another challenging COVID year, the Dance and Drama department have had another incredibly busy and successful year and we wanted to celebrate those successes with you.
All components of the Bedales Assessed Course (BAC) and A Level courses were completed, including practical units by all students on the courses. Schemes of work were adapted and students made video projects as practical assessments in lockdown, and when we have been in school, performance assessments have been recorded as evidence and shared digitally rather than visited by external examiners, or in some cases, rather than being viewed and appreciated by live audiences. This really allowed the students to gain skills in areas that would not have looked at previously.
We have still put on four co-curricular productions, adhering to restrictions and delivered in different mediums – whether to a closed audience live, live-streamed and shared afterwards, or shared as an entirely digital production. Our peripatetic lessons have continued online and live, and exams have been taken. Our enrichment programmes have culminated in performances, with the students concluding the hard work they have put into it after pausing projects during school closure.
We have all learned new skills and adapted our skillset to navigate these uncertain times. Yet we have grown from it, consistently certain in our determination to stay creatively challenged and celebrating the area we love – the arts.
The Autumn Term included BAC Dance and Drama assessments. The Block 4 and 5 dramatists performed devised work influenced by Greek theatre and practitioners. The dancers worked on live performances in the style of a multitude of practitioners, from August Bournonville to Alvin Ailey. 6.2 actors performed their re-enactments of classic texts in the style of Brecht, Ad Infinitum and Forced Entertainment. The Autumn Production was Constellations by Nick Payne, a beautiful two-hander about a relationship, love and quantum physics. The artistic interpretation of this play was created due to COVID, and yet practically and artistically was so much more exciting because of those creative choices. Block 5 and 6.2 actors appeared in multi-roles, in duplicate casts, complimented by 6.1 dancers who personified the themes and emotions of the piece, through their use of movement. It was stunning and the chemistry of the actors was incredible, despite the metre plus distance between them at all times!
The Spring Term was a digital one. BAC Drama students performed their stories in The Terrible Infants as recordings, editing and adding live music in the style of Kneehigh. At home, the Block 4 dancers continued to work on the sofa dance, choreographing in their own homes ready to bring it alive, and the Block 5 dancers rehearsed group choreographies together online, for each of them to create a dance-film based on an array of different stimuli. The dancers also took part in online external practitioner workshops to keep them moving.
The 6.2s acted their naturalist Rotterdam as a screenplay and the Spring Production of Machinal was made in to a film. The students were sent green screens, rehearsals took place on Microsoft Teams, the crew researched costume, hair and make-up and the actors sourced it at home, filmed themselves and the footage was spliced together and edited to make the final piece. It was released episode by episode in half term but if you did not get a chance to watch it, click here to enjoy it, episode by episode, or all at once if you prefer! The playwriting enrichment writers also completed the 30-minute original scripts which were entered into the National Theatre’s New Views competition.
The Summer Term saw us back at school collaborating together and attending the theatre once more. Bedales Dance Performs saw 21 of the dance pieces that the students had been working on over the year. They included performances from all year groups and including one of the modern peripatetic lessons. View and buy photos from Bedales Dance Performs here. The students were incredibly excited to get back into the Theatre and perform their work, and even though there was no physical contact within the choreographies, this did not stop them performing with passion, focus and commitment.
The A Level final evidence was collected and recorded. 6.2 dramatists created two incredible devised performances and performed a Berkoff piece in the studio and a Footsbarn site specific promenade performance. The two student directors finally picked their projects back up again and Nay Murphy’s Definition of Charisma (which was longlisted in the National Theatre’s New Views competition) and August Janklow’s True West were both enjoyed by closed audiences in the Drama Studio. The finale of the year, including a cast and crew of over 60, was Chariots of Fire, full of actors and dancers, which was incredibly well attended and well received at the end of term.
A huge thank you from us to all the students and staff who have gone above and beyond to make all of the above possible and professional. It is your tenacity and talent that makes us so proud of the Dance and Drama department, especially in the face of adversity and we look forward to a new year, with all the new skills and insight we have gained.
Three weeks into the new term and three phenomenal Wednesday Workshops have already been delivered. We have been so lucky with the wealth of experience that has been shared in these workshops and the generosity of professionals in the industry to share their time and their insight with our students has been invaluable.
Kate Winslet returned to deliver another workshop on characterisation, sharing her scripts and her own character notes alongside photographs from set. The students were enthralled by the schedules and script edits they saw and could truly appreciate the graft of acting and the research and exploration an actor should and must do to truly inhabit a role. Kate then delivered a separate more intimate session on American dialect for a student directed group and the difference in accents used by the actors at the end was astonishing. I know they will continue to practise using the crib sheets and techniques taught – and I will too!
Ben Press delivered his second session in person, and it was lovely to welcome him to Bedales and for him to share his experience and expertise in the Meisner method. Students were intrigued by this different way of working and the simplicity of responding and reacting to create truth on stage. I look forward to learning every Wednesday with the students and gaining these industry insights in the most memorable way.
Read a selection of students’ perspectives on the workshops below.
Poppy Brough, 6.2
Kate Winslet, a world-renowned actor, came to Bedales and delivered a second acting workshop for all students interested in Drama. She answered many questions from the students about her career delivering full and interesting answers, while also giving us funny anecdotes about being on set. She also showed us some photographs taken on different film sets. I particularly liked the picture of a massive sink in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.
Kate was very open and didn’t judge anyone’s questions, creating a warm open atmosphere that was comfortable for everyone.
She talked enthusiastically about her new series Mare of Easttown, set in Pennsylvania, where she plays a grieving detective. She spoke about the intensity of the role and gave us valuable acting tips for filming out of chronological order, which is necessary to avoid time wastage.
We would really like to thank her for the precious time she gave to us, and we hope that she comes again soon.
Kit Mayhook-Walker, 6.1
To assist 6.2 student August Janklow with his student led adaptation of Sam Shepherd’s True West, Kate Winslet kindly agreed to come in to give the cast a workshop on dialect. The two-hour workshop focused on everything from pronunciation, articulation and how accent informs character. She gave each member of the cast a dialect pronunciation sheet which actors use to better understand the sounds common in specific regional accents, southern Californian being the one in question. she also sat in on a scene reading and offered her advice and opinions on vocal characterisation and specific things for each actor to focus on and remember while acting. The workshop was extremely helpful and useful in the development of the play and we are extremely grateful she took the time to come in and assist all involved.
Zeb Murphy, Block 3
I attended a workshop given by Ben Press, an actor who studied in New York. He spoke to us about the Meisner technique. It is an acting method developed by Sanford Meisner, under the influence of Stanislavski, Lee Strasburg and Stella Adler.
The first activity Ben introduced to us was the ‘Repetition Game’, as he called it. Two people had to sit face-to-face, side-to-side, or back-to-back. Then we had to simply follow three instructions; Don’t say anything until something causes you to speak, Don’t try to be interesting, The other person is the most important being in the entire world.
The general idea of the game was quite simple. Whatever the other one says about you, you just repeat but change it to ‘I’ instead of ‘You’. For example, this is a possible round:
Person 1: “You are looking at my feet”
Person 2: “I am looking at your feet”
And so on…
What is noticeable, is that even though we are trying not to act, the tone in which the phrase is said will continually change, and the partner must always react to how you said the phrase. It was incredible and hilarious to watch. It was mind blowing that this simple activity, of not even trying to act, was more enjoyable to watch than half the acting scenes I have seen in theatre.
Ben then made the exercise even more challenging by requesting that one member of the pair, had to be attempting a near impossible task, such as stacking three golf balls on top of one another. The person assigned the task began their challenge, whilst the other person had to walk into the room and do as follows:
· Walk into the room as if it was the most important thing to do
· Say nothing
· Observe what is occurring in the room
· Still say absolutely nothing
· Only speak when something in the room causes you to speak.
The Repetition Game would continue with the same earlier rules. This time, when the moment felt right, you were allowed to break the repeated phrase and change it to something else you needed to express. It was incredible to both watch and perform this challenging activity.
Overall, the workshop taught me that not trying to be interesting when acting can bizarrely be the most interesting thing to do. Good acting is about the way you say something rather than what you say, noticing and reacting is just as important as acting out your rehearsed part. I absolutely adored this workshop and I hope Ben will return to Bedales for another lesson”.
Last lockdown we introduced online, industry-style workshops with professionals in the field. These included online seminars with prolific playwrights and practitioners, alongside well-known and admired OBs, all sharing their insight and passion for following a career in the arts. When back at school last term, these continued in the form of ‘Wednesday Workshops’ (pictured above), which were well-received by students, who gained insight into the industry first-hand and met incredible actors and audition coaches who have helped fuel their ambition and refine their skills.
Now we are in lockdown again, we wanted the opportunity to continue online, and Eve Allin has been organising a vibrant and varied programme of workshops. Students can attend voluntarily in Wednesday’s Powell Time slot each week. Look out for what is on offer next term, and please join us if the topic or speaker sparks your interest. Here, students who have attended share their experiences.
Jessica Asamoa, 6.1 On Wednesday I participated in a fantastic workshop led by OB Roly Botha. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to develop our skills in monologues, and we all learned a lot from the brilliant feedback which was given. Most importantly, everyone had a lovely time and enjoyed it so much that we all stayed behind at the end to ask questions. It was an extremely enjoyable and engaging workshop.
Eliza Hayward, Block 3 I really enjoyed the recent Drama workshop with Hebe Bartlett. It was really interesting to talk to someone with so much experience. She was engaging and helpful, and gave us such great tips for self-taping and how to get into the acting industry. It was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot. I’m looking forward to more of these workshops.
Nay Murphy, 6.2 and Drama Don A wonderful and informative workshop led by charismatic Hebe, who is introducing us to the world of professional auditions.
Stella Miller, Block 5 Throughout lockdown, Eve has been putting on the most amazing drama workshops. I was profoundly inspired and uplifted by one of her workshops on theatre directing, where she talked us through the process of directing a play from start to finish; I was even galvanised into conjouring up a whole play of my own from scratch. I could not think of a better way to spend a Wednesday evening in lockdown than talking all things drama with Eve and other OBs.
The Spring Production is now well underway. 6.1 students are acting in ‘Machinal’ by Sophie Treadwell, one of our A Level set texts. It is a digital production and Joanne Greenwood and her team are already busy with the production elements. Sam Coleman, a member of theatre crew, tells us what is going on behind the scenes.
By Sam Coleman, Block 4
As the closure of school extends and we settle back into the routine of remote learning, the hard working stage crew bring their talented skillset to a new environment. Over last few weeks we have been working on Machinal, a stage show set in the 1920s, preparations for which will continue over the coming weeks.
With more time on our hands we are able to conduct more thorough research and find historically accurate sounds, videos and images for a more immersive and realistic experience. With the production team meeting for an hour once a week, each meeting consists of a brief rundown of tasks to fulfil, followed by a usually silent and hardworking 30 minutes of researching, sourcing, snipping and downloading. After we reconvene and share our findings, we work towards creating a scene or making edits, adding in and layering sound effects, finding visuals to go with our ‘soundscape’ and ensuring the highest quality possible.
The stage management team have been researching historically accurate props and locations to assist the actors in imagining their environment, whilst the wardrobe department have assigned costume supervisors to work with each actor to help them style costumes and hair from what they can find at home. As our soundscapes and accompanying visuals begin to fit together nicely, it will be great to see how the project progresses in the weeks to come.
This week, Block 5 and 6.2 students took part in a four-night run of this year’s Autumn production, ‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne. Due to ongoing restrictions, two duplicate casts of eight performed alongside dancers in the Theatre, with two of the performances livestreamed for parents at home.
By Isobel de Gier, 6.1
Watching Block 5 and 6.2’s nuanced and detailed approach to Nick Payne’s Constellations – aided by Hayley Cole’s directorial work – was a joy. Between the many interpretations of protagonists Marianne and Roland, played by the electric Ella Peattie and captivating Nay Murphy, there were multiple humorous moments. The play then quickly juxtaposed those comical elements with tender and heart-breaking scenes of the characters’ future selves.
The play masterfully toyed with light and shade, enrapturing its audience. The experience was immersive and the audience laughed, cried and became enraged alongside the characters – with every smile, laugh, or frown of the many versions of Marianne and Roland, the audience was enveloped deeper. This is not only a testament to the subtle and refined acting style, but the beautiful LED lit set, the bewitching dancing by Lucy Albuquerque and Mathilda Douglas and masterful directing. If you did not see the many parallel universes of Marianne and Roland, you really did miss out.
By Aria Taheri-Murphy, 6.1
On Tuesday, the second cast of Constellations performed an amazing representation of raw love, shown through the perspective of many versions of Marianne and Roland. The audience watched the variety of ways their love unfolded in the different scenarios, however as the play reached its conclusion all the main plotlines merged into one story.
Not only were the actors amazing, but the set was incredible, set on different levels with small light-up hexagons beneath each level. These related to the hexagon projections across the stage. Projections of drawings and maths equations were used throughout the performance and as the audience began to understand the characters the hexagons became very significant.
The dancing added an exciting new element, this too was socially distanced, but this did not affect the quality of their work. Two A Level Dance students performed throughout the play, expressing the characters’ frustration, love, grief, and pain. The actors clearly showed these emotions, however there were times where the dance could truly show the raw feelings the characters were trying to hide. Overall, the acting, directing, staging and choreography was amazing and created a hard-hitting love story which didn’t need to be shown physically, much like the National Theatre socially distanced performance of Lungs.
By Livi Grout-Smith, Oscar Clark and Amber Pearson, 6.2
Last Wednesday morning, we were lucky enough to be visited by Natalia Koliada (Director) and Sophie Robins (Head of Communications) from the world renowned theatre company Belarus Free Theatre (BFT).
Created in Belarus in 2005 as an underground theatre company and having to perform in secret locations so as to protect themselves from prosecution from the Russian and Belarusian governments, BFT’s directors, Nikolai Khalezinm and Natalia Koliada, were forced to move to London to escape further persecution and have since directed their actors in rehearsal via Skype calls between London and Minsk. Having chosen the company as the inspiration for our final 6.2 devised piece, we had never thought we would ever get to meet one of them, let alone have lunch with them, as we did during their visit.
By Phil Tattersall-King, Deputy Head (Co-curricular)
The connection between Petersfield Youth Theatre (PYT) and Bedales remains as strong as it always has been. Not only does Bedales help with provision of rehearsal space, there are always Bedales students and staff involved in the productions in some way.
In this year’s glorious production of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Block 4 student Rowena le Poer Trench took on the role of Susan, one of the four children who stumble through the fur coats into a different world where animals talk and time works differently. Rowena carefully showed her character’s increasing awareness and wisdom as the plot developed, always being genuine and utterly engaged in the fiction.
Perhaps it is the emotive true story of Mexican nun Juana de la Cruz that created the atmosphere of concentration in the Theatre during The Heresy of Love’s three-night run in December, athough I am inclined to give credit to the incredible cast and crew for really bringing this script to life. Smooth, practically choreographed transitions of the set whisked the audience from scene to scene, helped by the fabulous ensemble and their melodic singing. A gate was lowered from the ceiling to immediately capture the convent. This minimal use of set had maximum versatility, and therefore impact.
Notable performances from Kit Mayhook-Walker as Father Antonio and Oscar Clark as the archbishop at the start pulled the audience into the play ‘in medias res’ and remained strong, whilst Will Needs owned the stage with his excellently articulated monologues as Santa Cruz. Other beautiful examples of characterisation include Sienna Mills-Jung and Amber Pearson, who took on the roles of Sebastiana and Marguerita respectively, with Gus McQuillin as Viceroy and Bel de Gier giving a heart-warming performance as Vicereine.
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.