Drama: Pupils Dazzle in GCSE Scripted Performances
The Bede’s Drama department has a long tradition of preparing and producing A Level and GCSE examination performances at the same standard as it does its full, professional-grade musicals and plays – including with the same reverence, guile and craftsmanship.
This year’s GCSE scripted performances were no different, consisting of excerpts from Gogol’s The Government Inspector, Sheridan’s The Rivals, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and more, with diologues and short sections from these complex works brought to life with vivacity, style and tangible ambition.
In 2018-19, Bede’s has a large, talented crop of Upper Fifth (Year 11) actors, many of whom started their careers in performance with Director of Drama Mrs Lewis’ 2016 Junior Production of Romeo and Juliet.
With their lives in the Bede’s Sixth Form now within striking distance, and only those pesky GCSE exams and a long summer break in the way, last week’s Scripted Performances on Thursday and Friday offered audiences a wonderful opportunity to see how these young actors – and costume, set and production designers – have developed across their three years at the school.
The 8-strong sequence of pieces started with The Government Inspector in the Miles Theatre. Led by Max Jones as Khlestakov, supported with panache by Lili Longden as Anna, Summer Wells-Millard as Marya and a slightly lunatic Aaron Spiro as The Governor, these scenes were enlivened by a fast-paced, fun physicality.
Next, Josh Siggers and Ardal O’Brien got stuck into some Bunburying as Jack and Algernon in excerpts from The Importance of Being Earnest. Quick wits were required – as were some horticultural skills from Aisling Cotter’s Gwendolen, whose frantic butchering of a vase of flowers added a giddy edge to her verbal sparring with Eliane Boyer’s mischievous Cecily.
The audience then moved into Studio 2 for some touching duologues taken from Nigel Williams’ stage adaptation of Lord of the Flies. Felix McKendry and Luke Perring gave sincere, thoughtful, tender performances as Ralph and Piggy, tugging at the heartstrings and transporting audiences from dreary Upper Dicker in February to a phantasmagorical desert island out in the wild Pacific.
Before the interval, Nathan De Silva, Adam Bradley, Jess Frisby and Gabrielle O’Neill then gripped audiences by the throat, offering an extraordinarily powerful sequence of scenes from Metamorphosis.
Moodily lit, breathlessly physical and thrillingly bold, the foursome all did stunning work here. De Silva’s tortured Gregor was informed by Nathan’s wide eyes and dancer’s agility, Bradley’s gurning Father stood wild and proud from Frisby’s subtle, delicate mother, and O’Neill’s demure, surreally attentive Greta grounded the piece and kept it from shearing clear off its moorings.
After the break, the final four performances then began with a whimsical sequence of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Josh Prince-Smith, Will Watson, Elise Sutherland and Isabella Casanova Nava playing Demetrius, Lysander, Helena and Hermia.
The four were styled as if they had emerged, somehow, from the 1960s, with costumes, hair and make-up care of Sydney Teale, and between some impassioned emoting, fiery lambasting, and Will channelling Neil from 80s sitcom The Young Ones, there were ample chuckles to be had.
Next, back in Studio 2, Sadie Collett, Georgina Seegar and Mitzi Fielder offered perhaps the most sensitive performances of the lot through scenes taken from Feminist family drama My Mother Said I Never Should. Sadie, playing young, brought wonderful joy and innocence to Rosie, Mitzi a spiky edge to Jackie, and Georgina’s worn-down, chipper, resilient Margaret was a stoic marvel.
Switching tone and location yet again, the penultimate pieces, taken from Restoration comedy The Rivals, saw a bandy-limbed Evan Nayler milking everything he could from Sir Anthony. He had a fine dramatic foil in Jamila Nasseraldeen, who quipped like a pro as an impressively sturdy Mrs Malaprop, while Ellie Sarro’s pining, emotive Lydia Languish was similarly contrasted with George Lewis’ dashing, dim and grubbing Captain Jack. The cast were dressed in astonishing style by fellow pupil Sofia Manji, with Lydia Languish’s hand-stitched purple gown being particularly striking.
Last but not least, back in Studio 2, Will Hopkins and Rodrigo Merlo closed events in style with a series of dramatic two-handers from The Woman in Black. Merlo’s ‘Young Kipps’ was wide-eyed, friendly and latterly truly haunted, while a rubber-faced Hopkins hammed it up as Keckwick and showed depth and subtlety as ‘Old Kipps’. Both boys did fine work here, their contributions marking a fitting conclusion to the entertainments.
Congratulations, of course, to all involved – not least Bede’s Head of Academic Drama Mr Choithramami and Director of Performing Arts Mrs Lewis who, in concert with Bede’s production team of Ms Brazier, Ms Conlon and Mr Waring, enabled yet another cohort of pupils to give of their best and impress audiences with their range of dramatic skills.