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House Drama Festival 2016

Read the report on this year's Shakepeare-themed House Drama Festival by Director of Drama, Jane Quan.

This year’s house drama was a fantastic celebration of creativity and team work and it was clear from the start that the directors were totally committed to producing the best plays they could. There was a wonderful atmosphere and engagement in rehearsals and this was particularly apparent over the weekend, where backstage there was a real sense of focus and preparation, and in the audience there was tremendous support for all those performing on stage. The audience was noisily enthusiastic at the start of each play, but they were quick to listen and concentrate during each performance.  It was also very clear during the awards that, in spite of the competitive element, all casts appreciated and congratulated all the award winners. As a result this is one of the best House Drama Festivals I can remember, for warmth and engagement and also for quality of the performances across the board.

The stage crew also did a terrific job during technical rehearsals, which were spread throughout last week, taking up most of their spare time. With the support of the Coade Hall technical staff, they operated all the lights and sound for the show, which is no small feat when you have five productions in one weekend and only one big rehearsal with each cast.  Abby H, Callum C, Thore G, Peter M, Lauren R, Georgia F, Felix H, Hector CM, Angus P, Ben N, Adam S, Solly D, Amy C, Oliver N and Alex K did a superb job in providing a professional atmosphere for each play. The directors too were very proactive in preparing for their technical rehearsals, producing scripts with cues and coming up with ideas.

All plays received a number of nominations and it was a difficult job to decide between so many, especially with plays of such different styles. All productions had strengths that we tried to award and they made up a fantastic weekend’s entertainment for the school. Thank you to colleagues who helped with the awards and joined in with the celebrations

The directors this year were extremely dependable and showed real initiative. They were helpful, listened to advice and they worked around prep times as much as possible and around other commitments too, which is not an easy task. Thank you not only to the wonderful directors and to their casts and the crew, but also to the drama department, Coade Hall staff, house staff and school as a whole for supporting this fantastic festival.

 

Reviews of the House Drama Festival productions:

West Side Story, based on Romeo and Juliet, opened the festival on Friday and this was an ambitious and classy production of a musical with no corners cut. There was a sense of a company working hard to convey an epic story of love, rivalry and loss. They managed to cut a long musical down very effectively, without cutting out any of the smaller roles and scenes that add depth and interest to the story. The wonderful fight and dance scenes, the interactions between the gang members and their girlfriends, the slick scene changes and, most of all, the complete focus of the actors at all times made this a consistently impressive show. There were a number of strong performances leading to well deserved awards for Best Actor (Macauley Q), Best Actress (Elfie T), Best Comic Character (Will W) and finally the overall award of Best Production. In addition the two leads were wonderful throughout, singing, dancing and acting with total commitment and they well deserved their award for Most Romantic Couple.

She’s the Man was a great choice for a House Drama production with lots of young characters and a clever, contemporary twist on the complicated plot of Twelfth Night. The play was beautifully cast and the wonderful Abi H had not only a huge part to memorise, but also had to perform quick changes from male to female in the few shorts breaks she had. She did superbly well backed up by a strong cast – many nominations for Best Actor or Supporting Actor were in evidence. There were lovely scenes, such as the football try-outs and the charity fair and, of course, the final football match. The cheerleader dance was superb and deserved a Best Choreography award; in addition to Abi H’s award for Best Newcomer and Chloe E’s award for Best Supporting Actress, She’s the Man also won Best Animal Award for the pet spider, played by Piers B.

Saturday night continued with The Ballad of Shlidicus, which was highly confusing in terms of plot but full of gags and wild moments that made it hugely entertaining. Short and sweet, the play was written by Max D and drew on every genre from Shakespeare and classical drama through to quests, black comedy, action films and Monty Python. There were some lovely performances throughout with Tom O as a confident and skilful chorus, Oliver T as Shlidicus, Tyger T as the evil Emperor Trumpledor, Alex F as a terrifying mother and Max D and Dan B as the hero and heroine leading the rebellion. The last two were a close second place for the Most Romantic Couple award, instead winning the Best Comic Scene award for their engagement followed by sudden death. The fairy and minor characters brought some colour and context to the stage and there were some lovely backdrops and choreography, especially for the mining dance and I Will Survive. The sound was also cleverly created for this play, with some atmospheric underscoring and scene change music. Oliver T gained an award for Best Delivered Line and Tyger gained the coveted award for Overacting. The directors and cast clearly had much fun bringing this original play to life and Max certainly deserved the award for Creativity and Originality.

Macbeth opened the Sunday performances and this again was adapted by the clever Oscar V, who found multiple opportunities for updating the text and zoning in on Bryanston and the local area, whilst sticking pretty close the original play by Shakespeare. In this production the witches were particularly effective, not only for their superb acting and delivery of funny lines, but because they cleverly remained on stage throughout, affecting the action, and shining spooky torches effectively during the set changes. Had we had time to build in more awards, Dan L would most certainly received an award for Best Accent and with a huge number of lines he held the plot together well, all with a perfect Scottish dialect. This play also contained a number of strong performers with George O as Banquo, Merlin R as Macudff, and Elisei S as Lady Macduff, but the witches were particularly strong and this production gained four of the five Best Supporting Actor awards – witches Alexander S, Alice C and Rose H and George O were very strong throughout. The design in this production was also impressive, with kilts, tree costumes, witches and a great Scottish soundtrack. The tree dance, and the witch dance were two personal favourites.

The final performance of the weekend was Shakespeare in Love, adapted from the film by Sam H, who also co-directed alongside Carolina B, Ilyria R and Eddie M. This was a clever re-write, not easy again to cut down a long film to a 45-minute performance and this adaptation gave opportunities to a number of actors to really go to town on some great roles. The wonderful Henry H brought energy and enthusiasm to the part of Will Shakespeare, keeping the pace fast and ensuring we all kept up with the complicated plot. Ethan C, Jack B, Liv S, Charlie S, Coco L, Hugh C, Jack G and Tom R were impressive in their roles, and from the opening torture scene the audience felt they were in safe hands with excellent timing and comedy. In particular, every line was clear in this play, right at the back. This was a strong ensemble piece, with a great backdrop by Sophie S which made it a serious contender for best design; it was slick and entertaining and the directors well deserved their prize for Best Direction.