‘... 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, our former Director of Drama Lilian Leadbetter departed leaving a legacy of a quarter of a century of breath-taking productions; a tradition that must continue.
The juniors are challenged to stage an all-encompassing production whereupon every single member of the MIV and LIV participate in an end of year extravaganza that flaunts the talents and interests of all involved. The UIV 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.
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. From 2017 A Level candidates will gain the chance to attend the National Student Drama Festival and benefit from the wealth of workshops, talks and live performances on offer. 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 exam.
As well as being staffed by Curriculum Drama teachers and LAMDA and RADA teachers, from 2017 we will have a new Actor in Residence joining our department to offer support and advice to those girls wanting to continue in the field of drama or theatre after St Mary’s.
Miss Holly Darling (Director of Drama)