‘... the theatre is a machine for climbing and descending the scales of meaning … a negotiation between our ordinary level and the hidden level of myth ...’ Peter Brook
At St Mary’s, our highly successful Drama Department is housed in the magnificent Delscey Burns Theatre, where lessons, workshops and productions, great and small, take place.
Our innovative curriculum is complemented by a wealth of extra-curricular activities. This means that every girl has the opportunity to create her own 'dramatic pathway' throughout her time at St Mary's. Our mission statement as a creative department entails that the talents of each individual should be fully realised. By providing a professional experience of Theatre and Drama training, our pupils are expected to develop skills which are life-enhancing.
Girls have the opportunity to be involved in a wide array of productions, regardless of whether they study Drama academically. Shows are designed to not only provide a platform for the outstanding and talented to take their Drama to the next level, but also to urge the apprehensive and shy to experience the thrill of theatre and be a part of something special.
The major showpiece of the year is the Autumn Production, alternating between a play and musical annually. This production is undertaken with truly extraordinary ambition with every aspect of the play addressed with astounding levels of detail. From vast West End style sets, full orchestras, weekend tuition, stunning costumes and lit by professionals.
The juniors are challenged to stage an all-encompassing production whereupon every single member of the LIV Form and MIV Form participate in an end of year extravaganza that flaunts the talents and interests of all involved. The UIV Form are challenged to become a Theatre Company for the Spring Term called ‘Four on Tour’. They are provided with an incredible challenge; to ultimately stage a full play in the Theatre Royal Bath in the final week of term. Girls can opt to take on a wide variety of roles from acting to prop making, lighting and even special effects design. Rehearsals occur during the term in preparation for what is a magical day in Bath whereupon they acquire a flavour of staging a show in a professional theatre.
Our Drama Department offers LAMDA Grade lessons and examinations from Grade 3 to Grade 8 (Gold Medal), including Acting and The Speaking of Verse and Prose. Musical Theatre also features. Most girls opt for Acting and lessons are taught to girls as individuals or in paired duologues by a team of hugely talented teachers.
The demand for LAMDA has been exceptionally strong and in a standard set of results, more girls usually receive distinctions than any other outcome.
The Department boasts a unique relationship with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). Our RADA Advanced Communication Course, the only one of its kind in the UK, is available to all girls in LVI Form, whatever their subject choices at A Level. The training has encouraged and developed excellent communication and presentation skills, vocal and physical development, greater confidence and an abundance of transferable skills. Girls receive specialist training which culminates in a showcase at RADA itself in London.
Each summer, the Sixth Form represent St Mary’s at the world’s biggest celebration of theatre in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival. We have links with a venue on the Royal Mile and girls find the project hugely enriching as they rehearse their play, support other shows and undertake creative marketing and promotional activities.
All girls in the Fourth Form receive weekly Drama lessons that provide a broad and diverse journey into the world of Drama. From exploring the work of theatre practitioners to undertaking lessons in devised, scripted and improvised theatre, there is something for everyone and sets girls up with useful skills needed for GCSE or A Level.
From 2016, GCSE Drama will follow the AQA whilst A Level Drama and Theatre will follow Edexcel. Challenges are diverse – from studying and performing play excerpts to devising and performing one’s own plays for an audience. Girls can also specialise in technical fields. Every year GCSE and A Level students have the opportunity to take part in workshops with visiting theatre companies and practitioners. Every Half Term, all girls studying Drama are taken to a professional production and often participate in subsequent workshops to prepare them for writing about the shows in their examination. Assessed practical work is performed to an audience in the theatre in February (scripted work) and May (devised work).
Extra Curricular / Overview
The Drama Department is renowned for its high level acting performances and the vigour of Theatre and Drama permeate life at St Mary's. The Senior Autumn Production is an important annual school event and involves girls from LV Form to UVI Form. Each year, Sixth Form students take a play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 2017 this was a production of Fin Kennedy’s The Unravelling.
The juniors enjoy activities such the Junior Play or Four on Tour at the Egg Theatre in Bath. The annual Company Drama Competition involves each company presenting a play in 48 hours. Junior Drama club is run on a weekly basis by our Graduate Assistant. The girls work towards presenting informal show-case events throughout the year.
Performances throughout the school year provide showcases not only for our actresses, but for those girls learning the disciplines of directing, lighting and set design, stage management and production.
Theatre trips this year have ranged from the immersive ‘Alice Underground’ at the Waterloo Vaults to the Watermill’s production of Jez Butterworth’s award winning ‘Jerusalem’. GCSE and A Level Drama students attend the theatre regularly as part of their course. This year the girls have had workshops with visiting practitioners that range from Physical Theatre with The Wardrobe Ensemble to Immersive Theatre with Punchdrunk.
The school has developed an exciting association with RADA which involves weekend workshops. In addition, a unique course - the RADA Advanced Communication Skills Course - has been established. Click here for more information about the RADA Course.
Private tuition for LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) for individuals, pairs and small groups, is an extremely popular extra-curricular activity. Approximately 100 students prepare each year for examinations in Acting and the Speaking Verse and Prose. Click here for more information about LAMDA.
RADA Advanced Communications Course
St Mary’s has had, for many years, a special relationship with RADA – the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. This has involved the school and the academy collaborating in a number of projects, including workshops on Physical Theatre, Voice and Audition Skills. In September 2007, a new year-long course was established for the UVI Form – The RADA Advanced Communications Skills Course. The course now runs as an option for LVI Form girls.
The first of its kind in any school in the UK - or indeed anywhere - the focus of our St Mary's RADA course involves communication and presentation skills for the 21st Century. This course is 'tailor-made' for St Mary's, with its emphasis on the individual. Though, of course, famous for Theatre and Drama, RADA's portfolio includes the training of professionals in Law, Business, Government and Politics (even at Cabinet level!) We aim to utilise RADA expertise to pro-mote and develop in our students the high level communication skills now regularly sought in the university and career markets.
The course is delivered by experienced St Mary's Staff who undergo professional training at RADA in London and by visiting RADA experts who monitor the progress and supervise the assessment of students.
The course begins with a taster workshop in September. Following this the girls are given the option to continue with the course which culminates in February with a day at RADA in London. The girls have a tour of the premises, make their final presentations (on a subject that they are passionate about) to a panel of experts.
There are inherent advantages for the students in terms of UCAS, for example - with universities increasingly looking for ways in which to differentiate between top academic students - the experience and qualification gained from this RADA course should prove to be significant advantages. Offered to the girls in the LVI Form only, our aim is to build upon the experience and the maturity of each girl, while giving her invaluable training as she approaches her university life and professional career.
Mr Duncal Ellis (Director of Drama)