Performance Dates: Thursday 30th June and Friday 1st July
This year, the Drama Department entertained us once more with a Lower School production of David Calcutt’s stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, directed by Mrs Lisa Rogers in her first directorial role in a Nottingham High School production, which was performed over the nights of 30th June – 1st July. We attended the Thursday evening performance and, despite it being the all-too-nerve-wracking opening night, the cast performed with confidence to produce a swashbuckling show.
The play focuses around the character of Jim Hawkins, as he recounts his past experience on board a ship, amongst the company of the notorious Long John Silver and his comrades, with a sole aim to explore an island in search of the long forgotten treasure stashed there by the evil pirate Captain Flint. The story is narrated by an adult Jim, who reflects on the actions of his younger self as he embarks on his journey across the waters. Upon discovering a treasure map in the possessions of an old stranger named Billy Bones (aka. ‘The Captain’), Jim joins forces with Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey, gathering a crew to travel to the island depicted on the map in order to retrieve the lost treasure. Upon arrival on the island, Jim, knowledgeable of Silver’s plan to overthrow Captain Smollett and seize the treasure for his own crew, hides in the woods. Here, Jim befriends Ben Gunn, a marooned ex-pirate whose lengthy existence on his own has sent him to the point of insanity, providing a light-hearted comedic element to the story, as the only thing on Ben Gunn’s crazed mind is his love for cheese. After fighting an intense battle, the story closes with forgiveness and friendship between Jim and Silver, whose fondness for young Jim enables him to overcome his greed and end his life of crime forever.
The performance itself was as polished as we have come to expect from this group of actors, who are certainly not short of talent. The darker tone of the action was established early on by Ziyaad Surtee’s portrayal of the pirate Billy Bones, suitably accompanied by a gruff voice, perfectly setting the tone for the actions to come in Stevenson’s classic narrative with his chilling depiction. Mitchell Ryan, as young Jim, led the ensemble and the audience through the piece with splendid acting, providing the innocence which acted as such an opposite to many other characters. Not least of these was Sean Kavanagh, who excelled as Long John Silver – a convincing portrayal of a classic terrifying character. On the other side of the action, Squire Trelawney was performed impressively by Henry King, who displayed to great effect this larger-than-life character, having the audience laughing at his will. A particular commendation to Barney McNamara, who juggled both the roles of Long John Silver’s saucy wife Rebecca and Benn Gunn with an ease and confidence beyond his years. It was not difficult to find humour in his portrayal of the lone islander longing for cheese and he encouraged much laughter from the audience. Luke Aungles’ haunting portrayal of Adult Jim didn’t fail to impress the audience; his mature voice and style enriched the character of Jim with an aged wisdom we’d expect from a well-seasoned traveller with a story to tell. In any successful production of this nature, a well-practised and talented chorus are the key to a polished performance. The commitment and the dedication of the ensemble really showed as they brought the play to life from “drunken” sea chanties to raging battles. Mentioning these few individuals is certainly not to say that others did not perform impressively – the full cast were essential in making this performance the success it was.
It goes without saying that the cast and crew should be highly commended for their commitment and continuous enthusiasm throughout the show run. Particular praise should be given to Mrs Worsley, the Production Team and the talented Art Department for the creation of another versatile set, resembling a pirate ship on the water. Finally, Nathan Hancock’s lighting and sound designs are further technical elements that aided the overall effectiveness of the piece. As audience members, it was clear that his tireless efforts to enhance the mood and atmosphere, through the application of coloured gels, down lighting and his unique sound effects, brought the entire piece to fruition. There is no doubt that the Lower School Production brought to an end what has been a fantastic year in the Drama Department and clearly supports the bright future ahead.
By Rosie Randall (6E1) & Max Prentice (6G1
Performance Dates: Thursday 8th December, Friday 9th December and Saturday 11th December 2015
At the beginning of the Autumn Term the Drama Department hit the ground running with an extensive rehearsal schedule for the Main School Production of Cole Porter’s classic, multi-award winning musical comedy, Anything Goes.
It takes a deal of confidence in one’s creative ability to take on such a well-known musical and, indeed, further skill to render it faithfully, while still retaining an intimate sense of individuality in performance. I am pleased to report, however, that not only have the Drama Department achieved this but – once again – raised their own loftily set bar.
The story itself has many of the aspects of a great evening’s entertainment: a fugitive convict; a complex love triangle and roaring passions that – interspersed with timeless comedic touches – resolve themselves to a rather agreeable ending. The SS America, on which the action takes place was the initial overwhelming factor for the audience. Being grand, striking and intricately created, the set design was unquestionably perceived as a genuine tour de force. It is unconventional to start a review with a description of the set design, but the impression it creates – thanks to impeccable creativity and collaboration between Miss Webster, Mrs Worsley, Mrs Riely and the Art Department – goes a long way to setting the audience’s expectations, which a polished cast, crew and band enhanced further.
The production opens with Isaac Troughton’s seemingly charmless stockbroker, Elisha J Whitney, whose character is skillfully developed over the course of the play, falling into marriage with Evangeline Harcourt. Mrs Harcourt, whose daughter Hope is sailing to marry, was brilliantly portrayed by Monty Davis-Phippen as an upper class ‘woman of a certain age’, whose blindness to the tumult facing her daughter’s romantic affiliations is a considerable source of light comedy for the audience. Hope, played with supreme confidence by Maia Webster, is largely naïve. Engaged to marry the man of her mother’s dreams in the form of the titled, yet insubstantial, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, she actually yearns for Ben Harwood’s humble but charming Billy Crocker. To portray such an intimate conflict of the heart is a real credit to the thoughtful acting behind Maia’s portrayal of Hope. In Billy, we see one of this play’s true protagonists, and Ben’s creation of the character was only bettered by his strong vocal performance throughout. No woman in the auditorium could fail to be charmed by Max Prentice’s sensational Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, who proved singularly unable to cope with the advances of evangelist, come nightclub singer, Reno Sweeney. Consequently, Max’s flair and comic timing saw the audience erupt with laughter during all three performance evenings and seeing him appear on stage wearing a dressing gown and Union Jack underwear was a particularly hilarious highlight for the majority of the audience.
The portrayal of Reno Sweeney by Lucy Stansfield was one that exuded class and technical ability, while demonstrating the true depth of the character with a confident façade masking true sensitivity. While her six angels (Shaunee Tan, Rosie Randall, Blue Bates-Cambridge, Georgia Andrews, Ally King and Isabella Montgomery) complemented Reno vocally, their true talent was expressed in the way that they performed exceptionally, as a collective, and still retaining individual, charming idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps the most dynamic duo were Maisie Cutts’ Bonnie and Nick Churchill’s Moonface Martin. Skillful acting created a delightful chemistry between the two characters, which was only added to by the comic nature of these characters.
Striking individual performances aside, it was the broader company that made Anything Goes the incredible spectacle that it was. The ship’s crew were portrayed with flair and poise, while the families of passengers contributed to both the rousing chorus numbers and the overall ensemble nature of the production. On this note, it was pleasing to see so many younger pupils taking part in what is a technically complex production. These many young talents demonstrate a deal of future promise for Drama at Nottingham High School.
Finally, as I am sure all of the cast would agree, this was a production of many complex elements. Polished acting, under the distinguished direction of Miss Webster, saw the brilliant subject matter of the script come to fruition. The vocal performances that expertly executed Porter’s most captivating witty numbers, most notably I Get a Kick Out of You, You’re The Top, It’s De-Lovely and, of course, Anything Goes, were a factor almost completely attributable to the majestic Musical Direction of Mr Reid and Mr Toon. The role of the Production Team in a production of this complexity is also easily overlooked; this is perhaps the biggest complement that could be paid in respect to a piece that simply ‘worked’ as rehearsed and planned. To end, however, credit has to be given to the zealous and passionate choreography of Mrs Ryan, the abilities of whom cannot be understated and are best evidenced by the fact that the actors, most of whom had never worn a pair of tap shoes before the outset, were able to perform with such style and precision.
It is fair to say, the cast, band and Production Team effectively captured the 1930’s spirit of the toe-tapping musical’s essence of joie de vivre.
By Nathan Hancock (6A1)
Two plays being performed simultaneously in two adjacent auditoria, with the same cast moving between each location throughout the evening: Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden offers a real challenge both to director and to cast.
Most of those who went to see the performances in the Founder Hall Theatre or the Les Wilkinson Drama Studio saw one play or the other, but only if you saw both on consecutive evenings could you begin to understand the complexity of the undertaking, or all the intricacies of the plot – and more importantly, the demands it makes on those concerned.
If it is hard for a teenage cast to present themselves as forty-year-olds, it is equally difficult for seventeen-year-olds to present themselves honestly as teenagers and make us believe in the age gap between them and their on stage parents, but Blue Bates Cambridge and Max Prentice did this convincingly as Sally and Jake.
Sally’s depiction of the slightly drunk teenager resenting being reprimanded by a parent for drinking too much was beautifully portrayed, and Max managed to portray Jake’s essential goodness and similarity to his father, Giles, equally well. And of course there was a supporting cast to complement these key performances, all of whom added to the sense of this being a company production. I am looking forward to seeing some of the younger cast members taking on more challenging roles in years to come.
Finding time to attend a school play at the end of a busy term is always difficult, but those who managed to see both House and Garden assuredly found it a rewarding couple of nights’ entertainment. It says a great deal for the maturity of the cast that they could tackle such a complex undertaking with confidence, and, above all, it speaks volumes for the directorial skills of Charlotte Webster, who produced not one, but two plays this term, besides writing a number of smaller parts for minor characters to allow them the experience of taking part in the production – and, of course, besides teaching and running the Drama Department.
Needless to say, the phenomenal work backstage from Tregi Worsley and the Production Team were crucial in the overall success of both plays during the performance evenings, as well as creating two beautifully designed and constructed sets.
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Roald Dahl’s tale of an orphaned boy who lives a miserable life with his two aunts until a mysterious old man sets events in motion which lead to the sprouting of an enormous peach from a dead tree.
Bringing Dahl’s works to the stage creates high expectations – the stories are familiar to, and beloved by, many. Moreover, in order to portray to portray Dahl’s surreal world, in which an ordinary girl or boy often finds themselves surrounded by darkly exaggerated characters and where the most gruesome and cruel events and individuals are also the funniest, deft direction is required, along with inventive set design and a talented ensemble cast.
Luckily, the production was blessed with all of these and the result was a pacy, colourful romp across the Atlantic with James and the peach’s crew. Every single member of the cast gave an impressive performance, with Luke Aungles presenting a James as a multi-layered character: innovative and lively when finding solutions to the problems faced by his insect companions and moving when discussing his loneliness with the sympathetic silkworm (Matthew Williams).
Isaac Troughton was great as the eccentrically avuncular, donnish Grasshopper, brandishing his violin with relish. Max Prentice’s pessimistic earthworm and Joseph McNamara’s pompous centipede frequently got into petty quarrels which exasperated James but delighted the audience.
All were superbly supported by the Chorus and the Storytellers. The set was likewise impressive – the green ‘lawn’ of the aunts’ garden was removed to reveal the framework of the peach, which cleverly incorporated a cut-out section and a chair deployed as a peach stone.
There were many ingenious moments, including the lighting up of the glow worm’s hat, the presentation of sharks and the seagulls used to hoist the peach from the sea, and the use of shadow play to illustrate some of the narration.
The audience enjoyed themselves, laughing out loud at several points during the performance. Ashley Fullerton, Charlotte Webster and their team of scene designers and stage hands are to be congratulated on putting together another excellent show.
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During the autumn term the Main School production of Sweeney Todd proved to be another huge success for the Drama Department. This stunning production exposed the audience to the murderous happenings in Sweeney Todd’s Tonsorial Parlour.
Ben Kawalec captured the charismatic, vengeful villain Sweeney Todd, alongside Izzy Carlin’s remarkable portrayal of the down-at-heel pie shop owner, Mrs Lovett. Both Ben and Izzy must be commended for their ability to achieve the dark, bloody antics of their characters, but credit must also go to the entire cast.
This was a true ensemble piece where all the cast performed to an exceptionally high standard, especially during the asylum scene in the second half. The light began to fade, casting shadows across the set, and the performers were uncannily convincing in their portrayal of the lunatics.
Stephen Sondheim’s telling of this grim tale is in every way a classic. The score is typical Sondheim: complex, contrapuntal, operatic in its scope and there is no doubt that Miss Webster’s production rose to the challenge compellingly.
The band played splendidly, led by Mr Palin and Mr Reid, sustaining a tricky score with never a foot wrong. This was a great evening’s entertainment, more ambitious than anything seen on The Founder Hall stage at the High School, and yet more evidence of the rude health of the theatre here. This extraordinary production also represented the culmination of the careers of many boys and girls who have been selfless contributors to school drama for many years now.
Ben Kawalec (Sweeney), Seb Harwood (Anthony), David Barron (Judge Turpin), Edward Limb (Pirelli), Henry Longstaff (Fogg), Zach Cox (ensemble) and Oliver Woodhouse (ensemble) all take their leave of us this year, and it was apt that they should go out on such a tremendous high.
Thanks must go to Miss Webster for her direction, to Mrs Worsley and the Production Team for their tireless work in putting together a complex set and dramatic lighting, and to Mrs Riley.
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The academic year ended with another outstanding production, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
For many of us, the story needs no introduction – four evacuee siblings go to live with a professor in his large and slightly creepy country home, all four of them discover (eventually) a magical land called Narnia beyond the wardrobe in the spare room, where, with the help of two good-natured beavers, they launch and win a battle against the evil White Witch, the Queen of Narnia.
To see this timeless story brought to life on stage really was something special: the acting was strong and brilliantly confident, and the beauty of Narnia was enhanced in the beautifully detailed set and effective lighting design.
The technicality of the production was first class; atmospheric sound design, creative lighting design, stunning set design and the snow machine provided the magical quality needed when the children ventured into Narnia. Mia Day made a supremely confident White Witch, leading the Narnia cast ably assisted by Maugrim, played by Jack Blowers, and her two assistants, played by Matthew Filor and James Beasley. The first Narnia character we encounter is Mr Tumnus the faun – Raphie Charles had the audience in stitches with his charming melodramatic portrayal of the kind faun.
The four protagonists of the play, brothers and sisters Peter, Susan, the crafty Edmund and Lucy, led the show brilliantly and worked so well together onstage as a sibling team – their relationship was equally playful, protective and serious when peril struck in Narnia. Joseph McNamara was brilliantly cheeky as the rogue brother Edmund, counteracted by the sweet nature of Georgia Andrews’ Lucy. Benedict Harwood also did a tremendous job when playing Peter, in particular his terrific fight sequences and Eliza Cox gave a strong performance as Susan.
The production wasn’t without comedy moments – Jacob Longstaff and Blue Bates Cambridge, as Mr and Mrs Beaver respectively, were excellent in their roles and knew exactly how to make the audience laugh, well-rehearsed in creating a charming comedy element among the panic in the land of Narnia.
The whole performance moved swiftly and smoothly despite the stifling heat of the evening inside the Founder Hall – brave were the six boys who very cleverly formed the wardrobe structure, dressed in thick fur coats in high summer! By the end of the night, the heat was no longer such a concern – the smiles on the faces of both cast and audience members revealed the pride in the hard work that had gone into the production from all the pupils and technical crew behind the scenes.
Thanks must go to Miss Webster, Ben Kawalec and Henry Longstaff for their creative vision and directorial skills. The long winter is over, and the delights of summer were here for all ages in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
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On a warm Friday evening, after Les Wilkinson cut the obligatory red ribbon, the audience entered to watch a hilarious performance of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales directed by Year Eleven student Harvey Brown.
The fast paced, highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable performance lead the audience into raucous laughter as they watched the cast transform themselves into a variety of characters using feather boas, a baby, four poles and a white sheet.
The speed at which the script was performed showed the depth of understanding the cast had of the text, and after some lighting changes and lots of comedic sound effects, we were soon on to tales two, three and four.
Harvey Brown's direction, both physically and auditory, of the Year Nine, Ten and Eleven boys and girls was astonishing, and he has set a level for performances in the studio that will be hard to raise.
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Some will see this as a typically American terror of communist infiltration, others merely as a good story. What stands in no doubt is that the cast of the production did a terrific job of bringing it to life.
Sebastian Harwood was full of kooky, nerdish energy as he pulled off Seymore – no mean feat, as he barely left the stage for the whole of the show. Ed Limb was the harassed Mushnik, and Ben Kawalec was superb as the strutting, sneering Scrivello.
Flora Bradshaw played the hapless Audrey, and David Barron was the snarling, soulful voice of the plant. All displayed immaculate comic timing, and even the hardest of hearts could not fail to be moved as Seb stuffed the body of his dead girlfriend into a six-foot high latex plant.
This production was the first in the newly refurbished Founder Hall, and what a great credit it was to it. Everything about the show was slick and professional; the band rocked from start to finish, and didn’t put a foot wrong despite the notoriously tricky score; and the chorus were committed and disciplined throughout.
Thanks must go to Miss Webster, the director, Mr Williams, the musical director, and Tregi Worsley for the staging (and her crew, for manhandling the plant into position. For the final performance the audience responded with a standing ovation and I think it’s fair to say ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ deserved no less.
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Into the Woods marked a fantastic end to a great year for Drama at Nottingham High School. The Lower School and Middle school cast members took on Stephen Sondheim’s demanding retelling of a host of well-loved fairy tales.
This version finds Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack, Cinderella and the Baker and his wife all lost in a dark forest as they try to complete their various tasks and generally live happily ever after. Unfortunately, an evil witch is up to no good, demanding that the
Baker and his wife fulfil an apparently impossible list of tasks if their wish to have a child is to be granted. The ugly sisters also make an appearance, but more on them later.
Technically this show is about as tough as it gets for everyone concerned, shifting constantly between sung passages and dialogue in short scenes where actors are only on stage for a matter of seconds before the spotlight shifts and another character carries on his or her tale.
It requires extraordinary concentration and confidence, even from experienced actors, yet this young and inexperienced cast carried the show off with real style.
And the future promises even more. Drama has thrived as a curriculum subject, and the more experience our actors gain, the more they can bring to school productions such as this.
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