A level Drama and Theatre Studies course

Drama at Ashbourne has grown into one of the college’s most successful and exciting departments with students not only achieving excellent A level results but also winning awards.

Our A level Drama & Theatre Studies students scooped three awards in the ISA Drama Festival (2019): Hurst Lodge Award for best senior production, Margaret Milner-Williams Medal for best senior boy performer and the Hollygirt Prize for best moment of theatre in senior production. The competition included around 500 independent and specialist performing arts schools from across the country.

Life of a Drama student at Ashbourne

Our drama students are offered excellent opportunities to write and perform their own productions, meet actors, directors, writers and many others working in theatre today. They are also given a high level of autonomy in preparing for their examination performances and consistently achieve outstanding results.

Ashbourne A level Drama student

Joy Adeogun studies A level Drama, English and Maths at Ashbourne and is currently Student President.
“I love the fact that I am able to study any combination of subjects. I think that just goes to show that Ashbourne really does try to put the student first and allows them to be the driver of their future. Ashbourne has allowed me to focus on improving and developing my intellectual ability as well nurturing and maintaining my interest in the arts.”

She was awarded a full drama scholarship to study at Ashbourne. Read more from Joy about taking the Ashbourne auditions, her views about the scholarship programme and her experience of what it’s like studying at Ashbourne.

Studying A level Drama & Theatre at Ashbourne

A level Drama and Theatre tests your practical and theoretical understanding of theatre, as you explore a wide range of play texts throughout the two-year course. Practical lessons focus on performance work – getting on your feet and creating real theatre. In theory lessons, you will analyse and study the meanings behind play texts, such as forbidden love in Romeo and Juliet. In both types of lesson, you will be assessed primarily as an actor and how well you can perform a character or play style. We look for your ability to convey emotions believably, take on roles of people unlike yourself and use your voice and movement differently on stage. 

At Ashbourne we follow the AQA specification for Drama and Theatre Studies AS level and A level.

Exploring different roles in theatre
As a theatre maker you will be required to create your own plays and direct, by leading ideas and guiding other students in how best to show the play. You will also need to show your skills as a designer, creating ideas for set, costume and lighting, which could create moods, atmospheres, or replicate specific time periods, as well as a theatre critic, analysing live professional theatre. 

Performance skills
The majority of lessons will have a practical focus and develop your performance skills, such as character work, in studying the acting methods of Stanislavski and others; vocal control and movement, or understanding how best to stage plays and devised work. These lessons will always start with a physical and vocal warm-up. The warm up includes cardio exercise, rhythm practice, yoga and voice stretches.  

After this, an extract from a studied script will be read together, before acting it out, by creating a mini-performance using a specific acting genre or style – a specific category of acting that follows set guidelines, such as the genre of ‘Realism’, which is focused on making the performances as true to real life as possible, dealing with real issues. Whilst the genre of ‘Expressionism’ looks to place the main character in bizarre and unexplainable situations, in order to look at social oppression. In these lessons your contribution will either be from an actor or director’s perspective. Skills in these lessons that are developed include: acting craft, character development, directing others, staging work and creating director’s concept – focusing on specific themes within the script that you, as a director, really want to push to the front of the work to display to the audience.

Creating theatre
In the lessons where you will be asked to devise, you will have total freedom in the lesson to create, with the teacher giving sporadic feedback and advice. This normally comes in the shape of sharing the work created with the teacher, who will give advice and ask questions on how best to improve the presentation elements of the work. The work is led by you and the other students in your group, with total creative control. In these lessons, skills that are developed include; creating theatrical ideas, storytelling, script writing, directing, acting, character creation and staging work. In script writing, the teacher will support your understanding of how to structure a story, creating a narrative arc and ensuring there is a clear beginning, middle and end, surrounded by the desired conflict. 

Some lessons a week will have more of a theoretical focus. In these lessons, the focus switches to the historical context, (what was happening at the time the play was written and what effect it might have had on the play’s themes or ideas). In these lessons, there is also a detailed focus on examine technique and how best to achieve the highest marks in written tests. Individual attention is given and feedback personal. The lessons will support your ability to articulate creative ideas, develop your theatrical vocabulary, structure your writing for exam purposes and share own personal opinions on theatre and your views on it. 

Lifelong drama
A level Drama & Theatre Studies is designed to inspire and enable students to become life-long theatre practitioners, actors, directors and writers. It is a highly creative course, which requires students that are hard working, passionate and willing to give 100% to rehearsals (even at weekends) and performances, as well as theoretical elements like essays and written exams. The subject provides a great opportunity to express and showcase creativity and performance talent.

Ashbourne Revue highlights

A level Drama & Theatre Studies students get the chance to come centre stage at Ashbourne’s very popular annual Revue where students and staff from across the college get to showcase their talents and skills in the end-of-year extravaganza.

Who teaches this course?

Olivia Gillman

BA Education with English and Drama (Cambridge University); Undergraduate Foundation in English Literature (Oxford University; dept for continuing eduction)

Liv is an actor, director and drama teacher with ten years’ industry experience. She was the Artistic Director for theatre at The In The Woods Festival for five years, receiving coverage in publications including The Evening Standard and Teen Vogue and working alongside producer Tom Bevan (SIX The Musical). As actor, she has worked with directors including Dirk Maggs (BBC/Baker St) and as panellist, has been invited to speak alongside Sir Trevor Nunn. She has worked as a producer on films featuring Ruth Wilson, Jude Law and The Belarus Free Theatre. Whilst at Cambridge, Olivia was nominated for the Footlights’ Writing Prize. She will be looking to get as many Ashbourne students as possible involved in comedy.

Beyond A level Drama and Theatre Studies

With your new-found drama skills you could go on to play leading roles at the National, go underground with your cutting edge scripts, tell stories through movement, or puppets, keep the show on the road back stage, create spectacular costumes and sets, produce dramatic effect with your lighting and sound and so much more.

Drama and Theatre Studies A level will enable you to apply for Performing Arts, Arts and Humanities degree courses as well as English, Film, History, Art and Design.

Suggested reading and resources

What’s onTheatresBookshops

TimeOut Magazine
Check out what’s on and where in London every week, plus reviews.

Frantic Assembly
Vivid and dynamic physical theatre that combines movement, design, music and text.

National Theatre Bookshop
Browse through a huge selection of plays and books on theatre at the National Theatre on the Southbank.

Royal Court Theatre Bookshop
Great value plays and plenty of new writing. Situated in Sloane Square.

Wide range of plays and books on theatre and theory.

Why Choose Ashbourne College?
Ashbourne was an amazing experience for me. My teachers were always on hand to help with any of my problems and ensure I achieved my maximum potential. The style of teaching was captivating and to such a high level that I believe it was key to my success at Ashbourne and for that I am unreservedly grateful
AyubElectric and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London
My child has benefited from the amazing opportunities Ashbourne offers. He is respected as an individual and his education has been tailored to suit him. He has had brilliant tutors and the small class sizes ensures he is receiving personalised support in all his classes
Since starting work at Ashbourne in September, I was impressed by the amazing sense of community. The students’ combat differences in culture, age and circumstance to form fantastic relationships, and are strongly aided in the support and friendship from teaching and admin staff. Students are always given the attention they deserve, and these factors create a unique atmosphere for successful learning.
Hannah MartinFormer College Administrator and Welfare Officer