Event Review: Upper Sixth Devised Productions 2016

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The week preceding half-term saw Bede’s Upper Sixth Theatre Studies students staging two very different productions connected by the common theme of mental health.

The groups were performing their plays as part of their Theatre Studies A Level course, which challenges pupils to write and perform their own short scripts as part of their practical examinations.

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In typical Bede’s Drama department style however, these exam productions were staged with full sound, lighting and costume – and in front of outside audiences!

Using the School’s campus to their advantage, one enterprising group made up of Rhys Clarke, Joshua Knight, Rosalind Manning and Fleur Reynolds staged their production – The Café – in the Sixth Form Centre, dressing the space with cutlery, napkins and condiments, and serving their audience/customers tea and coffee as part of the show.

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Those in attendance were central to the performance, directly engaged by the actors during unscripted moments and party to a number of challenging, tense moments including sexual harassment in the work place and confessional therapy sessions which played out close enough to touch.

Juxtaposed with these dark moments, the cast burst into dance from time to time, demonstrating the highs and lows of the characters’ interpersonal relationships and puncturing the sombre tone of the drama with unexpected levity and plenty of style.

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In Studio B of the Miles Theatre on the other hand, a second contingent of young actors consisting of Anne Kato, Ambra Fuller, Lillie Skerman, Charlie Belton and Freddie Stanley staged their own unambiguously stylised and extraordinarily stylish production, Superman.

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With the cast clad in black, performing in a black space and illuminated in shockingly white light, there was nowhere for the performers to hide.

Thankfully, each provided nuanced characterisation across their many parts, with extraordinary flashes of purely physical performance, including mime and dance, seguing neatly with duologues, monologues and asides.

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Brave and thought-provoking, the piece encompassed a giddying range of ideas across its short span and, when over, left audiences with an emotional punch to the jaw that will be difficult to forget.

Indeed, both productions were rich, thought-provoking and timely; staged at the end of Mental Health Week, those who attended left with plenty to ponder and their knowledge of the topic robustly enhanced by the experience.

 

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