Shakespeare: innovative and gender-blind

merely-theatre-romeo-and-juliet

By Jamie Murphy, 6.2, Drama Don

On Tuesday 21 February the Bedales Olivier Theatre was visited by Merely Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The company’s focus was on producing a ‘stripped-back’ Shakespeare where the text, as well as the relationship between performer and audience, is at the heart of every performance. With a sparse set and almost uniform costumes, the production focussed on Shakespeare’s writing and gave the actors room to experiment and pay close attention to the subtext of their lines. The themes of identity in Romeo and Juliet were explored by Merely Theatre through their use of gender-blind casting.

Juliet declares that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”; just as Shakespeare seemed to reject the importance of traditional identities and labels, Merely Theatre reject the significance of gender in representing character. All of the actors playing at least one role that wasn’t their assigned gender not only lent the production a sense of innovation, it also allowed for new interpretations of the narrative. For example, both Romeo and Juliet being played by men created a new layer to their forbidden love.

Merely Theatre’s production proved that Shakespeare can still be relevant to contemporary issues, and utilised a minimalist approach to create an engaging and intellectually accessible piece of theatre.

Lemons…

The first time I saw Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons was at the National Student Drama Festival in 2015. It’s a cliché, but it was even better the second time around. The simplicity and beautiful elegance of playwright Sam Steiner’s words echoed throughout the Olivier Theatre and they concluded that it was one of the best venues they’d ever played, along with the biggest audience.

For those who didn’t see it, Lemons came to Bedales from Warwick – an original work written, directed and performed by students. It tells the tale of Bernadette and Oliver – a dysfunctional but totally relatable couple who find themselves constrained by the latest legislation – the ‘Hush Law’ – as it is coined by activists. It limits them to 140 spoken words a day. Immediately, the audience is thrown into their relationship, and Bernadette and Oliver, directed by Ed Franklin, switch between time zones, language limits and spaces alike.

If the Q&A session at the end was anything to go by, we loved it and just wanted it to go on for longer. Full of questions and love and regret, Lemons enthralled students, parents and teachers alike.

By Eve Allin, 6.2

Gripping and humorous physical theatre

STRIKE  01

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

Students enjoy engaging and contemporary dance production

On 27 February, Mapdance performed in the Bedales Olivier Theatre, staging works by a diverse range of choreographers. This resulted in four pieces which explored different aspects of life in a variety of styles, creating an engaging and contemporary production. The performance involved thirteen dancers, and was comprised of five pieces which were mostly contemporary dance to a greater or lesser extent. They tended to not be heavily reliant on a story-line, merely representing circumstances and interactions, which allowed the audience to project their own meaning onto the pieces. The dancers employed the use of an assortment of music, some of which was played onstage, and used spoken word to great effect. Afterwards there was a short question-and-answer session, which allowed the dancers to share their valuable experience and the audience to feedback their interpretations of the performance.

By Rachel Forsyth, Block 4


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.

Life-sized puppets to visit Theatre

Sparkle and Dark Theatre Company visits the Theatre on the evening of Thursday 23 January, as part of a national tour. Using stunning life-sized puppetry and original live music, Killing Roger explores the sensitive and important issue of assisted dying. Inspired by author LW Illsley’s personal experiences of Hodgkin’s disease and the care industry, it tells the moving and poignant tale of two unlikely friends at opposite ends of their lives. First produced with Little Angel Theatre, it has enjoyed five star runs in Edinburgh and London and recognition from the Wellcome Trust and the Mason Institute. Tickets are also available for the A2 Theatre Studies evenings on 30 & 31 January when students give their final, externally assessed performances. For tickets, please call 01730 711511 or email tickets@bedales.org.uk.

Killing Roger

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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.

Colourful and Gothic arts programme

An artist revelling in colour and texture offers us a timely antidote to the lowering grey of the skies. Our new exhibition by Michael Minas is now open and runs until 8 February. Three Gothic Tales, the Dunhurst Blocks’ Play, will be performed in the Theatre next week. Free tickets are available for Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday 18th at 2.30pm from tickets@bedales.org.uk or 01730 711511.

Michael Minas

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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.

Incendiary Sixth Form Production

This week’s Sixth Form Production, to be performed in the Olivier Theatre from 15- 17 October,  is the incendiary Pornography by Simon Stephens; tracing the lives of Londoners in the electric days before the 7/7 bombings, when the Olympic bid and the Live 8 concerts were taking place abroad. Pornography is an extraordinary piece of work, in the spirit of Blake as much as The Clash. It is carved from seven blocks of text, with no characters or allocation of lines. Created in just four weeks, Pornography is both the story of our times but is timeless. For free tickets, please call 01730 711511 or email tickets@bedales.org.uk.

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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.