“The actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.” Sir Laurence Olivier
Professions, without exception, demand at least some of what A Level Drama and Theatre is able to offer – collaboration, evaluation and analysis, empathy, creativity, reflection and self-review, presentation skills and confidence. So, this course is not exclusively for those considering a career in some aspect of theatre, television or film. For those who are, A Level Drama and Theatre at New Hall offers an opportunity to make, perform, interpret and understand theatre.
We aim to extend the aspiration to include all actors and all theatre-makers, whether onstage performers, backstage crew, designers, directors or technicians. We want to encourage students through drama to explore, imagine and create other worlds, and to understand and develop empathy with other characters.
A Level Drama and Theatre promotes a balance between practical theatre-making and the theoretical understanding of drama and theatre. We use the Eduqas A Level specification, which is a stimulating and engaging course. It consists of three components as follows:
Component 1 – Theatre Workshop.
Learners participate in the creation, development and performance of a piece of theatre based on a reinterpretation of an extract from a published text. Learners are assessed on either acting or design and will use the techniques and working methods of an influential theatre practitioner or a recognised theatre company. As well as the performance, students will produce a creative log and together they are worth 20% of the qualification.
Component 2 – Text in Action.
In this module, students create and develop, perform or design, two pieces of theatre based on a stimulus supplied by the examination board. Learners are assessed as actors or designers and perform in front of an external, visiting examiner. A process and evaluation report will be completed within a week of the performance. This component is worth 40% of the qualification.
Component 3 – Text in Performance, the written examination.
Students study two complete texts and an extract from a third contrasting text. After exploring the plays, practically, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills in interpreting them for performance. One text is from pre-1956, such as Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ and the other, post-1956, such as Dario Fo’s, ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’. The final text is the award-winning ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’.
Visits and Trips
Live theatre evaluation is incorporated into each of the components and the course will include several theatre visits. In recent years these have included ‘Witness for The Prosecution’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, ‘The Jungle’, ‘Antigone’, ‘Once – the Musical’ and ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.
Residential visits have included two days in Stratford upon Avon to experience Shakespeare’s world and visit the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a longer trip to Greece, to the birthplace of theatre. Workshops and key sites are included as well as an exciting, live performance of a classic Greek comedy or tragedy.
Drama A-Level students have the opportunity to learn from experts in the world of professional theatre, film and television. Practitioners who have been invited to New Hall School to enable students to strengthen or develop new skills include; Complicité, Splendid Productions, Squire Stage Combat and Fleur de Lys Theatre.
Students are able to choose design options for specific components. These are sound, lighting, costumes and make-up as well as set design. Drama Studios have lighting consoles, which are suitable for training and examination performances.
Beyond New Hall
Students from New Hall have gone on to further studies in performance or other aspects of theatre-making, media and film production, stage management and design. Places students are currently at or have recently graduated from include Guildhall, Italia Conti, Guildford School of Acting and the Royal Welsh Conservatoire. Alumni of New Hall include actors Theo Stevenson and Nathan Collins, the director Rose Glass and playwright/director, Alecky Blythe.
Beyond the curriculum, the Department runs a range of Drama clubs, activities and visits. We stage two major extra-curricular productions and smaller performances or reviews, each year. Open to all students, these are an important and valued part of the life of the school.
Drama Clubs provide opportunities to flex creative muscles, experiment and play in a safe environment. These are specifically targeted to year groups or Key Stages in order to nurture strong, collaborative relationships. Drama games and exercises, which are inclusive and accessible, are central to the activities but we also encourage further exploration of ideas and development of skills. Key Stage 3 Drama Clubs have, in recent years, formed the core cast and crew of productions such as ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Arabian Nights’ and other showcase or review performances are planned.
Trinity College, an international examination board, offers an unrivalled choice of qualifications for students and teachers of drama and speech. It has been providing assessments globally since 1877 and examines 850,000 students, every year, from 60 countries around the world.
At New Hall we prepare students in Years 7-9 for age-appropriate examinations. These are currently in Speech and Drama. The majority of students opt to enter the external assessments and we are confident that a long tradition of exceptionally high results, will be sustained in the years to come. Older students are able to pursue the opportunities offered through Trinity College in the co-curricular programme. This typically involves students participating individually or in pairs in weekly training sessions with a specialist teacher, who equips and enable students in one of the options available – Acting Skills, Communication Skills, Speech and Drama or Musical Theatre.
We produce a varied and exciting programme of plays and musicals, sometimes for specific year groups and sometimes for students from across the Senior Divisions. Recent examples include Guys & Dolls, A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, The Sound of Music, Arabian Nights, Footloose, Shakespeare In Love and Oliver! Most performances are in the Eaton Theatre or Jubilee Hall but we have also experimented with outdoor performances in the North Quad, and most recently, in the new Walkfares Canopy.
Staff and Facilities
Drama is currently staffed by four teachers and supported by freelance technicians and other members of the staff community.
Walkfares – the ‘home’ of the Drama Department is the purpose built Walkfares Performing Arts Centre. We benefit from two equipped Drama Studios, office space, lighting and sound control room and costume department. The lighting rig in Drama Studio 1 and two recently installed consoles facilitate a wide range of design possibilities as well as scope for training students in lighting design and technology.
Eaton Theatre – the main performance space is the 180-seat Eaton Theatre with a traditional proscenium arch stage and flexible raked seating which allows for multiple configurations in the auditorium. There is a large lighting and sound control room, audio-visual equipment and two dressing rooms.
Jubilee Hall – a second performance space is the Jubilee Hall, which is transformed to cater for larger-scale productions and events, with retractable seating and a sprung floor, this space is perfect for spectacular productions.
Walkfares Canopy – in 2020 a brand-new performance space was created and flexible staging, audio equipment and purpose made surface installed. Despite it being December, the Drama and Dance departments were able to rehearse and produce inaugural performances of ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Arabian Nights’.
A Level Drama & Theatre builds confidence and stretches students to invent, collaborate and create in order to tell stories and change lives. We share the views of Oscar Wilde who regarded theatre as, “the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
Head of Drama: Mr A. Williams [email protected]