Every year, the Ashbourne Drama department makes an average of 12-15 trips to various outstanding London theatres. This is an incredibly unique feature of Drama at Ashbourne as the college’s students see arguably the best contemporary productions in the world. The purpose of these regular trips to the theatre is to broaden and enhance the student’s appreciation of drama in all its variety. Ashbourne Drama students are asked to take notes in each production which they will discuss with their drama teacher in the following lesson. Drama students have found these trips invaluable and eye-opening. Below are summaries of some of the best productions seen last year.
The Spanish Tragedy
An unexpected highlight for most students this year was our trip to the Arcola Theatre in Dalston to see a production of the 17th century play, The Spanish Tragedy. Doublethink Theatre’s production updated Thomas Kyd’s play focusing on corporate greed, corruption and violence in a tense and dark setting that felt like a bizarre, apocalyptic nightclub. Students were struck with how apt and knowing a play written four hundred years ago could be about life in the 21st century.
Including a six year old girl in a blood stained dress representing ‘Revenge’, a decomposed corpse hanging from the roof and a central character who bites off his own tongue…this wasn’t one for the faint hearted!
“I loved the Spanish Tragedy. You wanted to turn away at certain points but you couldn’t. It was violent, but really moving at the same time.”
Chloe Wise, A2 Drama and Theatre studies Student at Ashbourne College.
“Spanish Tragedy was the best play this year; really intense and shocking.”
Ben Hudson, AS Drama and Theatre studies Student at Ashbourne College.
Mother Courage and her Children
The national Theatre’s production of Mother Courage and her Children this year took over the Olivier stage and provided students with a brilliantly creative example of Brecht’s Epic Theatre. Fiona Shaw gave a virtuoso performance as the itinerant saleswoman who travels over Europe making a profit from war.
“The songs were brilliantly done; the whole thing was an amazing spectacle!”
Daisy Worth, Drama and Theatre studies Student at Ashbourne College.
“I really feel that I now understand Epic Theatre, having seen this amazing example of the theoretical work we have studied in class.”
Persephone Hulewicz, Drama and Theatre studies Student at Ashbourne College.
The Drama students walked up to the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, only ten minutes from college, to watch this version of the Chekov classic Uncle Vanya. An excellent fringe, black-box theatre, The Gate was an excellent, intimate venue that made full use of it’s limited space to provide an emotionally truthful and moving production of this acclaimed play. Students were very impressed by the quality of the naturalistic acting.
The Habit of Art
The Drama students were fortunate enough to see a new play by Alan Bennett called The Habit of Art at The National Theatre, whose premise was in dramatizing a fictional conversation between the poet WH Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten. Richard Griffiths was astounding in the lead role as WH Auden, and although the play had notable weaknesses, it provided students a good opportunity to witness a very specific and influential style of theatre.
Inherit The Wind
The Old Vic produced a version of this play starring Kevin Spacey. The Drama students were lucky enough to see this modern giant of stage and film at his best in this lead role. The play was appealing intellectually as it debated issues of evolution versus creationism. Students very much enjoyed this production which provided so much to think about.
The Drama department went to Ealing to watch Harold Pinter’s masterpiece. Despite being a small-scale production, the quality of acting alongside the visual design made this play an utterly enthralling to watch and students were very taken with this menacing, humorous and affecting piece.
A dramatic adaptation of George Orwell’s famous novel, the Drama Department went to The Battersea Arts Centre to see this piece. Captivating from start to finish, the production slanted the novel into an innovative example of Epic theatre incorporating puppets and humorous self-aware design elements.
Women Beware Women
Again, the Drama students went to The National Theatre to watch this modern interpretation of this Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. Beautiful choreography and a tirade of dark, powerful language made this long 3 hour tragedy a viscerally gripping watch. Some students commented that this was their favourite play of the year.
Five Truths Conference
The AS and A2 Ashbourne Drama groups were fortunate enough to attend the National Theatre’s recent ‘Five Truths’ conference – a full day event examining the work of five key theatre practitioners through demonstrations, workshops, discussions and speeches.
Attended by a wide range of London schools, the event offered around 250 Sixth Formers the chance to take part in practical demonstrations with their contemporaries , while simultaneously advancing their knowledge of the theory behind the work of Artaud, Brecht, Brook, Grotowski and Stanislavski. Ashbourne’s group took centre stage on several occasions during the course of the day, showing their willingness to take part, perform and engage with the day’s events.
Immediately afterwards came a chance for the Ashers to see this theory in action during the Young Vic’s evening production of ‘Three Sisters’. Incorporating the minimalistic staging of Brook with the truthful scripting of Grotowski, the modern adaptation of Anton Chekov’s play bought the day’s events to life for Ashbourne’s Drama group.