Reflections on the Sixth Form Show

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

Recently I overheard some students giving a guided tour explaining, in student terms, the way our school works – how first name terms creates mutual respect, and performing in the theatre, where professional companies also perform, means they feel almost professional. To me, that summarises exactly what the Sixth Form Show is all about and why we employ external directors to create a company for the students, giving them a taste of the time frames and high expectations of the professional world.

Old Bedalian Evangeline Cullingworth was the ideal choice for this year’s Sixth Form Show. She was so excited to work with and direct our students once again, and having read her choice of play over the holidays – Image of an Unknown Young Woman by Elinor Cook – we were incredibly excited to see how she would realise it. Her professionalism and directorial skillset made this such an enriching opportunity for the students, and her personality and the experience she has of teaching and delivering workshops at Bedales meant she nurtured individuals and the cast flourished under her.

Personally, I loved coming to see the play as an audience member, having not been part of the auditions or rehearsals, and seeing the spectacular end result whilst also appreciating the journey the students had been on and how much they had developed over the course of the rehearsals. The staging was original and the yellow dresses and accessories heightened the relevance of images and the power of social media in politics. The contextless plot made us all draw comparisons in our own minds and wonder how influenced we are or how much we actually know about causes we support and say we believe in. The chorus cleverly involved us and judged us as an audience and the characterisation was both truthful and shocking at points.

Students involved in the production reflect on their experience below:

Jessica Asamoa, 6.2 Drama Scholar: “It was a wonderful experience to work with Evangeline and my fellow sixth form students. The play was one that really made us all think and reflect on current political movements.”

Rowena le Poer Trench, 6.1 Drama Scholar: “I found the experience of working with Evangeline so interesting, as she really helped me personally develop my understanding of characterisation through thorough techniques of breaking down my scenes. In this way, the rehearsals for the play were like mini workshops each week where I learnt so much that I can use in future projects.”

Cerys Jones, 6.1 Drama Scholar: “The Sixth Form Show was a great experience for any student, be those whom acted in it, assisted backstage or front of house or even those watching. The opportunity to learn new skills and develop, not just as a performer, but also as a person was abundant. A professional and safe, creative working environment was nurtured, helping the cast bond, and allowing for effective character and plot development in rehearsals. The production had the feel of a professional company, with collaboration heartedly encouraged, cultured by the amazing Evangeline, whose personal Bedales experiences combined with her wealth of theatre knowledge made her the ideal director. I’m very glad to have taken part in the show, making new friends, learning new skills and producing a fantastic play.”

Stella Miller, 6.1 Drama Scholar: “I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with OB Evangeline Cullingworth for the Sixth Form Show. A small and intimate group of 11 of us and a brilliant crew worked closely for just over a month to pull together our adaptation of Image of an Unknown Young Woman by Elinor Cook. It was a riveting and insightful experience, and one I shall never forget. From the costumes to the blocking, everything was systematically thought through and discussed, with each and every cast member having an input. It was particularly fun to compose a series of teaser images and posters to display around the school. The whole experience felt so professional, as though it were a West End piece of academic theatre; it was worth all the ‘all in’ weekends! A huge thank you to Evangeline and Joanne for orchestrating a show that was enjoyed by both the audience and the performers and really captured and projected the true essence of the arts at Bedales.”

Sixth Form Show celebrates 25 years of Bedales Theatre

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama
Photo by Beau Brentnall, 6.2

This year marks 25 years since the opening of the Bedales Olivier Theatre. To celebrate, we wanted to pay homage to some of the original work staged there. As the first piece performed at the Theatre was My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley, directed by a female student, we decided to invite a female Old Bedalian and professional in the field back to Bedales to direct a feminist play this term for the Sixth Form Show.

Evangeline Cullingworth has worked with the department as a practitioner over the last few years and assisted all year groups in academic and co-curricular performance projects. It is an honour to invite her back as our external director this term and we are excited to share this year’s Sixth Form Show, Image of an Unknown Woman by Elinor Cook, with you on 12 and 13 October (book tickets here).

6.2 student and Theatre Don Aryana Taheri Murphy recently interviewed Evangeline and cast member Beau Brentnall photographed the rehearsal session. Read Aryana’s interview below.

By Aryana Taheri Murphy, 6.2 and Theatre Don

Evangeline joined Bedales in 2011, where she studied A Levels in Drama, Music and English. She went on to study Theatre at NYU Tisch and completed an MA in residence at the Orange Tree Theatre. She has worked at the Hampstead Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Opera House training under Katie Mitchell. She is especially interested in community engagement and increasing access to opera, after working on RhineGold with Birmingham Opera company.

Evangeline was attracted to Bedales for the quality of the work, both academic and artistic, as well as the vast number of opportunities and how respected the arts are within the school. She had always been interested in drama since a young child, however, after joining Bedales she became more dedicated and serious about a career in the industry. She explained that by working towards her A Levels and being involved with the Sixth Form Show, she was able to learn from the “high level of production quality” and the “incredible experience” of being a part of the Theatre. One memory she shared from her Sixth Form Show performance was smashing a watermelon (with a sponge soaked in stage blood) with a hammer and it splattering all over her clothes and face, to create the effect that she was smashing someone’s head in. She recalled the shock from the audience and her feeling of being completely out of her comfort zone but also her excitement of the experience.   

This year Evangeline is directing Image of an Unknown Young Women. She explained how she attended a workshop several years ago when the play was first published and found that it stuck with her for its exploration of the impact of social media. She further explained how the play seemed more relevant now, as the only way we have been able to connect for the past two years is through phones. It made her look differently towards the piece, as 2020-2021 has been a time where “social media meets activism”.

New academic year, new Drama productions

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama

We have started the year with two exciting opportunities for the students and have been auditioning this week for the Whole School Show and the Sixth Form Show. The new Block 3 students were particularly brave and auditioned before they left for Cobnor!

We have started the year with two exciting opportunities for the students and have been auditioning this week for the Whole School Show and the Sixth Form Show. The new Block 3 students were particularly brave and auditioned before they left for Cobnor!

Jessica Asamoa, Drama Scholar and Drama Don, said of her experiences of auditioning for both productions: “On Tuesday evening, many students across the blocks auditioned for the Whole School Show, as well as some of the 6.1s and 6.2s who also auditioned for the Sixth Form Show. Auditioning is always a good experience to have and a fantastic skill to develop because it helps with confidence. It was also great to do an audition in a friendly and welcoming environment: everyone was very respectful and kind to each other so we were all able to present ourselves in the best light that we could. 

In the sixth form audition, we worked on some drama exercises. We were looking at how we can become more aware of those around us. This was very useful and I think most of the sixth formers who auditioned were able to gain more insight into how they focus their attention while performing. 

For the whole school audition, we worked on freeze frames and tableaux in groups. We were given a line of a poem as a stimulus and then had to create our freeze frames/ tableaux inspired by this. It was great to do some choral work and everyone had a lot of fun with it: there was a lot of laughter and smiles.

All in all, I think any audition that ends with people feeling excited, happy and comfortable is a successful one and I am looking forward to seeing how these projects develop.”