Top theatre practitioner encourages Block 5

Photo by Jack Offord

By Joe Siddle, Block 5

Last weekend Block 5 drama students were lucky enough to be visited by a well-established practitioner, Sarah Butcher, who has worked at the top theatres in the UK. Sarah came in for the weekend and advised and polished the Block 5 BAC scripted performances of Red Shoes directed by Jenni Brittain and 100 directed by Hayley Ager.

Photo by Jack OffordSarah is a co-founding director of the theatre company Non Zero One. She is one of five exceptional artists that make up Non Zero On’ who were formed in 2009 at Royal Holloway University. Non Zero One focus on interaction, conversation and audience participation by looking at relationships between people. Their work explores how relationships can be made and broken.

The company is also interested in the creative application of technology in performance; using live video, projection, hidden cameras, MP3 players, radio frequency headphones, live sound mixing and the Internet. The group makes work for theatres, gallery spaces and museums, with audience participation as a focus.

Sarah helped both BAC classes with blocking, adding soundscapes, and just generally helping to balance out the stage space and making sure that our key moments looked absolutely perfect.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with such a talented practitioner. A massive thank you to Joanne Greenwood, Jennie Brittain and Hayley Ager for a well-structured hard-working weekend and for bringing in Sarah to help take our work to next level.


Gripping and humorous physical theatre


Last Thursday the Olivier Theatre was taken over by five daring performers and a mountain of cardboard boxes as they put on Keziah Serreau’s STRIKE! as another exciting visiting performance to Bedales.

We are introduced to the banal and repetitive lives of office workers who slowly rise up and ultimately reject the machine of modern capitalism they are a part of. This Kafkaesque exploration of identity proved gripping as well as being thought-provoking and often very humourous in a physical theatre and circus piece. As the office workers come to terms with the bleak nature of their existence we see them gradually shed their office clothes and rise up (literally as well as figuratively) in a breathtaking trapeze act, without breaking a sweat, leaving the full Olivier awestruck.

This was one of many breath taking circus acts that included moments of suspenseful tightrope walking; calculated ‘lobbing’ of one of the female performers back and forth across the stage and the impressive combination of a bicycle and industrial quantities of cling film.

The excellent ensemble was powered on by a measured pulse of electronic music, with sound effects and lighting cleverly further adding to the comparatively minimalist set and props.  All this led the audience to believe that the office workers truly found themselves in a sprawling city environment and later, after breaking free of their constraints, were at the seaside with the sun going down.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Keziah Serreau this summer while working with her on a theatre production that was prematurely cut short. In the wake of the show’s cancellation Keziah urged me to always be truthful and, most of all to be dangerous when making theatre. I am pleased to say after seeing STRIKE! that Keziah has remained true to that statement.

By Saul Barrett, 6.1

Drama students treated to Director’s pre-show talk

Last Thursday as a drama department we took to the Lyric Hammersmith, to see Laura Wade’s adaptation of Victorian-set novel, Tipping the Velvet, and were incredibly fortunate to be treated to a pre-show talk for Bedalians from the director, Lyndsey Turner. Fresh from also directing Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the National Theatre she was witty, engrossing and clever all at once.

Tipping the Velvet is the story of two young women taking to the music halls in London as male impersonators and falling in love on their journey. It was Sarah Water’s debut novel in 1998 and set in the 1890s. The play took the tradition of a Victorian music hall and added music, comedy and a celebration of sexuality. Turner’s direction of the women’s physical intimacy was of nothing I’d seen before, they had the women suspended into the air, above their bed, intertwined with ropes. This allowed them to explore the meaning of their act as oppose to only the physicality and I felt it showed a sense of closeness between the women.

Throughout the play they included modern music sung in a choir to allow the story to be modernised and more engaging, for example Prince’s song Kiss was used when the women were performing in their music hall act. This intertwines the Victorian idea of performing in a music hall yet performing music of this century created a powerful balance between Victorian and modern ideas.

The performance was a success, especially considering how difficult it must be to adapt a novel onto stage whilst trying to stay true to the original story.

 By Nina Rebeiz, 6.2

Sixth Formers watch striking performance of Othello

The most striking thing about Frantic Assembly’s Othello was how the poetry of the Shakespearian language had such tension with the modern aesthetic setting. As the audience walked into the Lyric Hammersmith theatre, they were met with loud, heavy music you would expect to hear in a club, which set up the stereotypical Leeds pub which was laid out for us on stage. As the first actor strutted on stage, the action began immediately as they broke into a dance sequence, prologuing the well known Shakespearian play. The first movement sequence lasted ten minutes during which we learnt the hierarchy and status of the characters. We could clearly distinguish the relationship between Othello and Desdemona in the first few minutes of the play and understood the environment where the story was taking place and the key emotions, which the characters portrayed; sex, jealousy and hate.

The acting in the play was very energetic, the characters were always very aware of each other. This gave the feeling of a community and that they have been going to this pub for a long time. Othello’s character was bold with a sense of presence and power over the other characters, which was obvious from the way the atmosphere completely changed when he walked onstage. For example, he was always centre stage, creating a whirlpool of action around him, circling and clinging on to his every move. His relationship with Desdemona was clearly a sexual and intimate one but didn’t seem to have much more depth. They were materialistic and lustful they were all over each other on stage, but behind closed doors it became obvious that they’re communication didn’t delve much deeper. As for the acting however, it was powerful and electric along with constant movement and flirtation.

Not only did the play deal with relationships, but also it dealt with how relevant these issues are today. Set in a Leeds pub, the setting was familiar and the stories became more realistic. Dressed in tracksuit bottoms, hoodies and crop tops, the costumes allowed the audience to realise exactly what kind of pub this was. No one looked out of place. The grubby graffiti on the loo walls and cigarette stained cushions, overlooking the typical crime scene car park made the outdated language seem strangely relatable. The poetry used to translate the stories of the play was seamlessly integrated into the typical modern setting.

From a movement perspective, some of the lifts required too many people, that it took away the fluidity from the drunken sequence therefore making the stage look over crowded. Having the lifts executed by fewer people could have easily solved this. In conclusion this way of telling the story of Othello highlighted key issues in our modern day society and made it more relatable for this younger audience. The Frantic way of using action and movement with dramatic physicality gave the piece an exciting edge. The relationship between the modern set and Shakespearian language created a dynamic contrast.

By Emily Cliffe, 6.1

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.