As part of Ashbourne’s ongoing commitment to its Drama and Theatre Studies course, drama students have an amazing opportunity to see some of the best plays that London has to offer within the course of the year.
Below are summaries of some of the plays that drama students have seen in the past year.
In Oedipus at The National Theatre on the South Bank. Ralph Fiennes starred in the title role (the Greek figure who notoriously marries his mother!) The staging of the play was stunning, the revolving stage and the lighting making it a really engaging production. The group found it impressive to see a play that was 2500 years old and still hugely relevant and entertaining to a modern-day audience.
The drama students went to Greenwich Playhouse to see their teacher performing in a play based on a German farce called ‘Mr Kolpert’. It was an absurdist melodrama centering around the interactions between two married couples and the mysteriously absent Mr Kolpert. It was hugely farcical and comical but also quite dark and menacing at times. It was very special for the group to see their teacher in action on the stage.
Six Characters In Search Of An Author
The Drama Department went to the West End to see ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ at The Gielgud Theatre. The original play was written in 1921 by Pirandello, but this was a modern-day reinterpretation. It was an intricate and complex theatrical experience dealing with family trauma and the illusive nature of reality. It was thoroughly exciting but also terrifying at points. The group found it to be a unique theatrical experience.
A View From The Bridge
The production of ‘A View From the Bridge’ by the legendary Arthur Miller at the Duke of York Theatre had an abundance of positive reviews, so expectations were high when our Drama Department attended a performance. The action was set in Brooklyn in the 1950s and depicted the tension between the immigrants from the Old World (Italy) and the mighty capacity of the New World (America).
The drama students walked up to Notting Hill, only ten minutes away from College to see this play, which dealt with the complexities of human relationships and used interpretive dance in order to convey a sense of tension. The theatre was small and intimate, encouraging everyone to become fully immersed in the action.
Dancing At Lughnasa
The drama department went to the Old Vic near Waterloo to see this production, an Irish play written in 1990 by Brian Friel and set in Ireland during the 1930s. The play was a moving and heartwarming piece about memory, entrapment and Irish history. It showed with great tenderness the nature of a modernising world.
The Spanish Tragedy
The Drama department went 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 night-club. Students were struck with how apt and knowing a play written four hundred years ago could be about life in the 21st century.
The production included a six-year-old girl in a bloodstained 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.”
“Spanish Tragedy was the best play this year: really intense and shocking.”
Mother Courage and Her Children
The National Theatre’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children 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!”
“I really feel that I now understand Epic Theatre, having seen this amazing example of the theoretical work we have studied in class.”
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. A well-known black-box fringe theatre, The Gate provided an excellent, intimate setting, making full use of its limited space to provide an emotionally truthful and moving production. 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 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 exciting and thought-provoking production.
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 performance utterly enthralling. Our students were enthusiastic about this menacing, humorous and affecting piece.
The Drama Department went to The Battersea Arts Centre to see this dramatic adaptation of George Orwell’s famous novel. Captivating from start to finish, the production transformed the novel into an innovative example of Epic Theatre, incorporating puppets and humorous, self-aware design elements.
Women Beware Women
The Drama students went to The National Theatre to watch a modern interpretation of this Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. Beautiful choreography and a tirade of dark, powerful language made this three-hour-long tragedy a viscerally gripping watch. Some students commented that of all the plays they had seen this was their favourite.
Five Truths Conference
The AS and A2 Ashbourne Drama groups were fortunate enough to attend the National Theatre’s ‘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 students 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 there came a chance for the Ashers to see some of this theory put into practice during the Young Vic’s evening production of ‘Three Sisters’. Incorporating the minimalistic staging of Brook with the truthful scripting of Grotowski, this modern adaptation of Anton Chekov’s play bought the day’s events to life.