Drama at the Senior School & Sixth Form
Mermaids make waves
The Autumn Term saw Upper School students dive into an atmospheric fantasy world at the bottom of the ocean as they staged Polly Teale’s 21st century adaptation of ‘Mermaid’, a play about growing up, the rise of self-consciousness and the loss of innocence.
This captivating and timely play presented Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of love, loss and desire in a wholly new light. Delighted audiences were transported between a contemporary setting where Blue (superbly played by A Level Drama Scholar Lizzie H.) has an imaginative inner life fuelled by her obsession with mermaids, and the underwater world of these ethereal beings.
Blue battles with her desire ‘to live, to love and to feel’ in the human, modern world, which is beset with war, materialism and an obsession with appearance, while her alter ego (the Little Mermaid character, played beautifully by Isabel R.), seeks to leave behind her safer lifestyle beneath the waves where there is no death, pain or separation.
There were compelling and moving performances from all of the cast – including Amélie S.’s harrowing portrayal of the mortal Prince with whom the Little Mermaid falls in love, who has been deeply affected by his experience of war; the powerful and disturbing evocation of the ‘Sea Witch’ by three performers working in perfect unison to bring the character to life; and the gracefully undulating movements of all the mermaids, whose continuous motion made the underwater scenes shimmer.
As Esther Roberts, Head of Drama, comments: “This play grapples with how contemporary pressures – social media, poverty, celebrity culture, fake news, ecological collapse – are experienced by a teenage girl named Blue, who has her own issues to contend with, but finds solace and solutions through her imagination as she plunges into the world of the mermaids. ‘Mermaid’ is such a challenging play to stage, as reality dissolves into fantasy, encouraging us to think about ways of creatively showing a range of settings through lighting, costumes and ensemble movement, including underwater scenes. It was lots of fun finding the physicality of both the mermaids and the Sea Witch, and this was complemented brilliantly by the hair and makeup teams, who created some awesome looks! The music, composed and recorded by St Mary’s Music scholar Maryam, was evocative, haunting and beautiful, as was the choreography, created by our Dance scholars. It was an incredible team effort.”
The reaction from the audience was resoundingly positive: all felt they had not only watched an exciting piece of drama, but been given much food for thought. One parent commented:
“Many congratulations on such a well-devised and thought-provoking piece. It’s a challenging play but your set, use of movement and ensemble work, lighting, sound and costumes made it very accessible. I thought the girls’ performances were extremely mature and believable. They must have really enjoyed taking part in it and felt proud of their achievements. I’m looking forward to the next one!"
Headmistress Charlotte Avery added: "The play was a bold and complex choice and the staging and proxemics worked so well to contrast time and timelessness, the earth and the water, reality and fairy tale. The realisations of the Mermaids and the Sea Witch were beautiful and horrible respectively. The ensemble set pieces of news reporters, climate change activists, royalty on ships/watching firework displays were imaginatively done. Maryam’s music was haunting; Joe Nicholson’s sound, lighting and set were, as ever, exceptional; and Heather Collison’s mermaid costumes were magical. I applaud the superb direction by our hugely talented Esther Roberts and Kate Weber which enabled every girl to perform to the best of her ability.”
Mermaids Show Gallery
A Witty and Wonderful Mary Ward Show
In the Spring Term, the houses competed in the biannual ‘Witty and Wonderful Mary Ward Show’, performed as part of the Mary Ward birthday celebrations. Since the start of the academic year, the girls attended twice weekly rehearsals to create their own short play incorporating one of the Mary Ward values.
This was an opportunity to develop acting and directing skills, communication and teamwork whilst getting to work with girls from other year groups. Taking inspiration from the musicals Annie and Hairspray, talent shows such as Britain's Got Talent and their own imaginations, it was a hugely entertaining and humorous afternoon of performances which still cleverly conveyed the values of our founder.
Congratulations to the following ‘Oscar’ winners: Best Actor went to Anna S. and Cecilia F., Best Director was deservedly won by Sophie S., with Paston house winning best play, Best Visual Play going to Cavendish and Elms and Brookside jointly winning Best Mary Ward Message.
Movers and Shakers
Upper Sixth A Level Drama and Theatre students Isobel B., Abbi H. and Molly P. performed Jane Thorton’s and John Godber’s play ‘Shakers’ as their group examination piece as well as moving monologues for the external examiner, staff, students and parents.
‘Shakers’ is set in a trendy cocktail bar during Thatcher's yuppie 80s with the girls playing the overworked waitresses multi-roling as the clientele, which ranged from ‘your typical lads night out', the local checkout girls who’ve drunk too much and egotistical businessmen, to yuppies and loved-up couples. The play is fast paced, wickedly funny and energetic, requiring precision in role-playing and definition in characterisation, which the girls achieved with aplomb.
"This is a technically demanding piece which requires superb characterisation in order to convey important social, political points about 1980s culture and the treatment experienced by the waitresses. The girls carried this off superbly, with outstanding comic timing, making the audience laugh out loud whilst cleverly casting a light on highly topical issues relating to the #metoo campaign and equality. The searing monologues which followed shocked and moved the audience, and contrasted effectively to show the breadth and skill of the girls as accomplished performers.” Ms Esther Roberts, Head of Drama
Mr Abery said: “Being able to perform monologues which focused on challenging and, at times, disturbing themes, showed how these students could demonstrate perfect comic timing in a group piece and shortly thereafter leave the audience breathless in their portrayal of their monologues. Both Ms Roberts and I were so proud of the work that they put into the rehearsal process as well as the performances themselves.”
Shakers Show Gallery
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