The Trench – perspectives

By Meg Allin, 6.2, Drama Don and The Trench Assistant Director

We have spent the last three months working on The Trench for only three hours a week. Working with Head of Drama Hayley Ager (who directed the production) and the rest of the cast has been a pleasure. It has been understandably difficult at times, but we have enjoyed and overcome the challenges we have faced.

As Assistant Director, I have worked in casting and rehearsals while Hayley has tirelessly worked on stage design with Joanne, organisation, all the admin and the nitty gritty that goes with Theatre Production. We are very proud of what our cast has achieved; the physicality and vocal work of the piece is challenging and we pushed them all very hard to get it right.

There has been energy in every rehearsal and the piece has come together so beautifully because of that. The words of Oliver Lansley have been brought to life by the ensemble of 30 people, with Samuel Vernor-Miles as our ‘diamond in the rough’, Bert.

By Hayley Ager, Head of Drama and The Trench Director

We were approached by Petersfield council about what we as a community could do to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One. It was a wonderful opportunity to choose something suitably different to direct for this year’s Whole School Show and a challenge to pick from the wealth of war based literature as a starting point.

I have always been drawn to Oliver Lansley’s creative writing style and his physical theatre creations for his company, Les Enfants Terrible. The Trench is no different – an epic poem, written to be performed by five actors with contemporary music and puppetry. This gave me the perfect stimulus to create our own Bedalian version of this story and Oliver generously gave me express permission to change what I wanted within his words!

Our version includes three choruses to deliver the tale, so the lives of those at home are presented alongside the soldiers fighting in the trenches. An underworld chorus have also been created to tell the part of the story where Bert goes on his Grecian quest. The puppets are instead creations of the cast and the collaboration with Doug to add classical music seemed the perfect complementary aid to this timely tribute.

The end creation is something uniquely ours, with a stunning set, costumes that transport us into the trenches and performances that beautifully and appropriately show the weight of what these young students are performing – a homage to the tragedies suffered and the effect it had on all involved.

On a personal note, I would like to thank the cast for their diligence, sensitivity and passion throughout this project, Meg for her assistance in the direction, Doug for his musical contribution and Joanne, as always, for designing beyond what I could have imagined. The assistance from colleagues and students meant even more this year with my two extra members on board!

By Samuel Vernor-Miles, 6.2 and Bert in The Trench

I’ve had the honour over this past term of playing the role of Bert in this Whole School Production of The Trench. Behind the scenes, us members of the cast have worked ourselves harder and harder each week, but have also grown closer and stronger as a result of it, just in time to deliver this Christmas performance.

Personally, from having worked with every group in the cast (from the soldiers, to the families left at home, to the demons in the underworld), I know that every single one of us has put so much effort to bring the world of The Trench to life.

It’s been a fun experience and I’ve been very lucky to work on another fantastic school production. It feels very sad to be my last one, but I wish the cast of next year’s show the best of luck knowing it will be just as brilliant and I know they will have just as much fun as I have had working on this show.

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New Views playwriting enrichment

By Oscar Clark, 6.1

During our Monday morning New Views enrichment session, we had the pleasure of working with playwright and poet Deborah Gearing.

Deborah led us in three main writing exercises. Firstly, we each described our journey from our bed to the session, each with a different focus on a particular sense, mine for example was smell. This really opened our eyes to the different sensory perspectives you can use to give a new scope on events, beyond the standard focus on sight.

The second exercise was very much a continuation of this one, with the addition of a new context, all of us writing a statement given to officials by a victim of the wildfires happening in California. This more concrete foundation for the writing proved challenging, it being difficult to get into the mind-set of the kind of character who has gone through this kind of event, but, with direction from Deborah, we formed some believable statements, each with a very interesting and different narrative perspective.

After this we experimented with the creation of characters, using a chosen photograph as the inspiration for a character then having to make up responses to questions Deborah asked us, thus turning a photograph into a three-dimensional human being with a backstory and ambitions. We repeated this exercise and were left with two characters of different backgrounds, eras and ages but both being fleshed-out tools for the concluding exercise. We tried to bring the two characters together in a scene, in doing so breaking the rules of time and space, and create some kind of conversational interaction between them.

It was an extremely beneficial session, giving the five of us firstly, an insight into challenges that face playwrights, but more importantly an insight into the techniques they use to overcome them. On behalf of myself and my classmates, I would like to thank Deborah for her help. We are all looking forward to our second session after Christmas.

 

Sixth Form Show perspectives

Bedales Sixth Form Show 14th October 2018 (Photographer Jack Offord)-7703

By Hayley Ager, Head of Drama and Liz Wood, Head of Dance

We welcomed Temper Theatre Company this autumn as a company in residence to collaborate with Bedales and work with students who successfully auditioned to be part of the Sixth Form show. Their combined work, the physical theatre piece Kin, was performed prior to half term. Certain students will then be reworking this into a performance to tour around schools in Dubai in the upcoming exchange trip which Liz is running as part of the enrichment programme. We are incredibly proud of the students for their professionalism and engagement in the project which really saw them, as in real life, devising an original piece of physical theatre as a company. We were also very impressed with the company whose artistic vision, passion and devising skills were the perfect combination for our talented students and what he had in mind for this project.

By McCauley Fischer, Putney Exchange Student

The Sixth Form Show was full of many types of talent and creative choices. The audience entered a theatre filled with a thin layer of fog from a smoke machine, while live music played until the house lights dimmed for the start of the show. The fog allowed for a unique use of light to represent technology and a range of other things from mood to large amounts of water. The show, which centred around inhabitants of a town where a dam threatened to overflow, touched on themes of human connection with the earth and each other as well as communication. It conveyed how technology effects these things, at times showing a light-hearted reality and at times a harsh one. I found the physical theatre very convincing which fully immersed me into the story.

The main group of friends in the story had a similar effect for me because of the convincing portrayal of genuine friendship and excitement by the actors. I felt like they could be kids in any town that anybody in the audience could know. This was a device used throughout the show; the universalness of the characters and their behaviour was effective in getting me invested. The live music throughout the show by some incredibly talented sixth formers really brought it all together and made the show. It was a fun and thought-provoking evening of entertainment.’

By Eben Macdonald, Block 3

I believe that the meaning of the Sixth Form Show, Kin, is that humanity is forever arrogant and ignorant and that social media and this common sentimental social dependence which many people have is damning to society.

This is because the people in the play are constantly warned by the Public Service that there is an imminent breakage of the local dam, which will cause severe flooding and will be very serious. However, they frequently ignore these calls. There is a scene where, during a loud and exuberant party someone receives a call, but because of the noise they are unable to hear it. They even say dismissively over the phone, “Sorry, I need to get back to my friends”, which I feel conveys how damning this social sentimentality is. They could have heard that call and reacted, but they were too busy partying.

Also, a significant feature of the play is that the characters are frequently buried in their phone. During the play there are scenes of impressive choreography where the characters are looking straight at their phones. This, I feel, is meant to convey how social media consumes us, dominates our lives, and how depressingly addicted to it people are. Wherever the characters move, even when the movement is complex and choreographic, they’re buried in their phones.

When the dam at last breaks, there is a long scene showing the characters drowning, grabbing each other, thrashing about and being tossed around as the city is inundated. After that there is a scene that shows a few friends enjoying a flippant and sentimental conversation, of course on their phones. This, I feel, shows that humanity is arrogant and will never learn from its mistakes, as if they had not been so devoted to social media, they might have saved themselves.

Milk Presents’ drama workshops at Bedales

By Meg Allin, 6.2, Drama don

Last week we had a visiting theatre company, Milk Presents, perform their work BULLISH and also lead workshops with some of the drama classes.

We were joined by Jo Tyabji, the production’s artistic director, who came in and worked with us on Milk Present’s style and creation process.

Jo started by asking us our pronouns – he/she/they – and then asked us to say something we had done that made us proud that day, which helped set an initial basis and mood for the lesson.

We got up on our feet and did some quick fire clap exercises. We were asked a few questions about gender, like “are biological sex and gender the same thing?” to help create diversity in the room. Everyone was respectful of each other’s opinions and Jo pointed out that it’s okay to have differing opinions because it creates conflict in a piece. This is a factor that I think can get forgotten about in rehearsals.

We listened to heavy metal and wrote down all the things that made us angry. This gave a big release to the group and helped us relax and wipe away our stressful feelings.

We then used an Alecky Blythe exercise where one person will listen to a podcast and repeat what is being said, while everyone else surrounded them doing different things such as press ups when talking about diets. This managed to create a little piece for us which was incredibly interesting.

Having Milk Presents come into our Drama class gave us new perspectives about devising theatrical work as well as gender fluidity.

there is a war (but it’s not here yet)

Bedales Parents Day - 30th June 2018 (Photographer Jack Offord)-6839By Mia Threapleton, 6:1 

On Parents’ Day on 30 June, and subsequently on 2 and 3 July, a science fiction, futuristic and mysterious piece of theatre of mammoth proportions was performed at Bedales.

Written by two highly talented Old Bedalians, Roly Botha and Eve Allin, there is a war (but it’s not here yet) focuses on a group of young teens fighting for survival in a world where every day could be their last.

With Phil Tattersall-King leading the charge as director and me, Mia Threapleton (6:1), as assistant director, we set out with our amazing cast to create a deep and complex piece of theatre that showed the hardships undergone by all the characters.

As an avid drama student I was very keen to dip my toe into the world of directing and find out more about what that was like. At the end of this amazing experience I can safely say with absolute certainty that I loved it.

I was blessed to have such a cooperative cast and a very patient director; it really was one of the best things that I have been involved with during my last six years at Bedales.

It allowed me to help people to utilise their fantastic creativity to their advantage. Additionally, I helped people to create a fully developed character, which they all succeeded in doing magnificently. Everyone created deeply compelling and often emotional performances.

With the aid of the wonderful Joanne Greenwood with her student crew and Liz Wood with her spectacular troop of dancers, the piece came together in a fantastic way and I am so happy to have been part of it.

A Necessary Woman – ‘No Vote, no Census’

Big Slider A necessary woman Poster image front

By Ollie van Hoeken, Bedales student

After teaching us about the context of the characters and events in the play in Jaw, Deborah Clair and Philippa Urquhart headed over to the theatre to prepare for their touring show.

The plot of the play is how Emily Davidson and ‘necessary woman’ Mary meet in the cleaning cupboard, and discuss their views of the suffragettes. Emily Davidson, a historical suffragette famously threw herself under the King’s horse for the right of women to vote. The character of Emily has come to disrupt the House of Commons meeting after the 1911 census.

The minimalist set created an intimate atmosphere and the use of recorded voice and sound of bells and the master, made the scenes focussed. With clear temporal shifts, the characters’ stories unfold; the audience can realise the irrelevance of class and age in an unlikely friendship. In this play Emily plans to address the House of Commons, however in 1911 she failed and this play gave the audience a rare chance to hear her voice.

Through the character of Mary, we see what life was like for women in the lower classes. She considered it lucky to keep her job after having given up her baby for adoption, this moment of saddening confession provided clear juxtaposition from Emily’s speeches of power. Mary made it clear that this was not uncommon for women of the time. By the end of the evening the audience took away a clear message: women have fought for the right to be equal and society has made huge leaps but there’s still a long way to go. This topic is still relevant today, but shown in a historical setting we see the similarities in prejudice.

Scripted and devised: theatre at its best

Bedales Theatre 22nd April 2018 Web Res-5335 (Large)

By Meg Allin, 6.1

On Tuesday and Wednesday the 6.2s performed their devised pieces. Often when people enter the Bedales Theatre they see plays with many possible interpretations, which are usually hard-hitting, and these plays were no exception. To start we walked to the lake and saw two ‘women of the lake’ attack, seduce and murder a Vicar fisherman.  It included a lot of deeply rooted sounds and voices that no average actor could conjure up. The real fire, hellish music, bleeding heart and misty lake made for an atmospheric piece.

Next, back in theatre, a funny but truthful portrayal of gender inequality and double standards, featuring a lot of modern pop culture references such as Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Savile which made the comedy more shocking; a moment that struck me was strong modern women being objectified as “bossy” and men as “tough”.  This contrast raised a lot of questions among the audience about the play’s message.

A homely set was then constructed with a sofa, lamp and beanbag, following an emotional and physically meticulous piece made for a detailed telling of two lovers and their journey of nostalgia and “gut love”; this saddening but captivating piece showed us love in its most pure state, the internal world of the two men was complex and yet beautifully portrayed.

The penultimate piece featured three women in wedding dresses exploring ways that people and society handles sexual assault and rape, done with sensitivity and poise.  The three pulled off a clear, montage style piece including how to keep you ‘safe’ in a car park or on a flight.

To finish off the night, a group of butterflies graced us with singing, cling film and berries, the childish aspects ironically calmed the madness of the piece. The three created scenarios that depicted stages of a woman’s cycle, while integrating an interesting butterfly metaphor throughout. On top of all this the 6.2s have also been performing their scripted pieces, which they performed on Tuesday. A very impressive display of skill and innovation, anyone who didn’t see these plays really missed out on something special. View photos