Alan Rickman dies

Stage and screen actor Alan Rickman has died, aged 69.

Most recently known for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series, Rickman was reportedly suffering from cancer and died surrounded by family in London.Alan_Rickman_after_Seminar_(2).jpg

He enjoyed a long career in film, television and on stage, beginning with the BBC Television Shakespeare version of Romeo and Juliet, in which he played Tybalt. His major Hollywood breakthrough was as villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and led to numerous other big roles, including the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Colonol Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.

His stage presence was as resounding as his screen presence; in 2005 he wrote and staged My Name is Rachel Corrie, a production based on the diaries and emails of the titular American activist killed in Gaza. The play was met with widespread acclaim.

Thousands have taken to Twitter to express their sadness at the news, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who tweeted: ‘There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificant actor and a wonderful man.’

January Issue Out Now!


TDSP1_1516_001_Cover A01_BWM.inddIn the first issue of 2016, Teaching Drama examines the flurry of celebratory activity planned to mark the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death. We debate the pros and cons of ‘translating’ the Bard’s language for students; Globe Education and the Royal Courts of Justice join forces to put some of his most controversial characters on trial; and Sarah Lambie looks at editions of Shakespeare written in text-speak. Plus, how to achieve blind marking in drama and the psychology of marking bias; tips on choosing exam boards; how to deliver more content in your lessons without taking away from practical preparation for assessment; inclusive education and outreach at theatre company Chickenshed; Arts Council Chief Executive Darren Henley introduces the Cultural Education Challenge; Sanford Meisner; and the basics of teaching lighting.

Buy now


Win a class trip to see Bend It Like Beckham the Musical with an exclusive Q&A session!

BILB15_Q2_173_PO_A5_Lands_Press_Assets_AW-2.jpgHit West End show Bend It Like Beckham the Musical and Hot Tickets For Schools have joined forces to provide schools with the chance to see the internationally acclaimed production and an exclusive Q&A session with composer Howard Goodall.

With the musical offering a wealth of discussion material for students – from sexism and racism to family expectation – it’s a goldmine for many areas of study in the curriculum, including drama and theatre studies, music, PSHE, physical education and religious studies.

Teachers are invited to enter into a chance to win tickets for themselves and their students. Further information can be found at

Talks to decide fate of Brewery Theatre announced

Following its temporary closure, the Brewery Theatre in Bristol has announced that public talks determining its fate are to be held on 12 January. The theatre, part of Tobacco Factory Theatres, is receiving letters of concern regarding its future – which is in danger owing primarily to funding. If successful, however, the plans hold potential for a fantastic outlook.


The Brewery Theatre, Bristol

‘Since announcing the closure we have received many messages expressing sadness, dismay and frustration,’ said Ali Robertson, Director of Tobacco Factory Theatres. ‘Though the future is not yet certain, we’d like to tell audiences, peers and supporters what the next step is. There are incredibly exciting emerging plans which, though subject to funding at this point, we would like to share.’

The smaller performance space of Bristol’s Tobacco Factory theatre, the Brewery opened in 2009 and has played host to various in-house and visiting company productions. Robertson says the theatre prides itself on its success, 23,800 people having attended 337 performances between 2014 and 2015, with an audience capacity of 84%.

The public are invited to attend the talk, which will take place on 12 January at 6.15pm in the Tobacco Factory Theatre Bar.

Billy goes on tour

BILLY_ELLIOT_TT_3D_SINGLE_LINEwBOY.flat Billy Elliot the Musical has announced its final performance in London’s West End. The show, which has held residency at the Victoria Palace Theatre for eleven years, will close on 9 April 2016, having run for 4,600 performances to over 5.25 million people in London and almost 11 million worldwide, grossing over $800 million.

With the announcement from Universal Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Productions, comes the news that Billy Elliot will be closing the door on their West End residency while opening another: a national tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland, which will begin at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in February. Following Plymouth the show will visit Sunderland, Bradford, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham. The tour, which is currently booking until May 2017, will then transfer to the Akasaka ACT Theatre in Tokyo for its first Japanese language production.

Producer and co-chairman of Working Title Films Eric Fellner is thrilled that Billy Elliot will be touring the UK and Ireland. ‘After eleven incredible years at the Victoria Palace Theatre, I join my fellow producers in expressing our gratitude to absolutely everyone involved in making the show the enormous success it has become,’ he said. ‘It has been a privilege to witness Billy Elliot’s journey so far, from producing the film in 1999, to the musical opening in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Broadway, Chicago, Seoul and Toronto, among many other cities.’

Billy Elliot has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life,’ said Elton John, who composed the score for the production. ‘I am so delighted that new audiences around the country will now have the opportunity to experience this extraordinary piece of work.’

The Musical Theatre & Drama Education Show: programme announced

+The CPD programme has launched with a host of expects on hand to run workshops and seminars at the inaugural free MTDES. Sarah Lambie reports.

As we announced with much excitement in the last issue of TD, London Olympia is to host the first ever Musical Theatre & Drama Education show on 25 and 26 February 2016 and it’s completely free for you to attend. The two day expo will feature stalls from many companies and organisations offering educational resources, technical knowledge, items for hire, books for sale, and advice – find a list of exhibitors on the website. But that’s not all: the extensive programme of CPD workshops and seminars has now also been announced (with a few surprises yet to be added to the list). Whichever day you attend, you’ll have the opportunity to benefit from the expert knowledge of speakers on subjects as varied as policy and funding, curriculum and exams, and new trends and approaches.

Though here I’m focussing only on the workshops geared towards attendees of the MTDES, the show shares its space with the enormously successful Music Education Expo, so you can come with your music department colleagues and indulge in some department crossover learning – why not attend a session on playing the spoons at the MEE and bring your colleague in to an MTDES session exploring practitioner Rudolf Laban’s work for performance?

As well as the interactive sessions, lectures and seminars, there will be performances and fireside chats on both days, featuring experts and stars who will be announced a little nearer the time.

While not everything has yet been announced, I thought I’d offer a walk-through of some of those sessions which have, and which you might choose if you’re attending on either or both days.

Day One: 25 February 2016:

Both days will begin with a warm-up, and all delegates are invited to attend and stretch their muscles vocal, physical and mental. Day one’s warm-up will be an opportunity to sing: that’ll wake us all up effectively!

After that, at 10 o’clock, performing arts teacher Matt Yeoman offers his expertise on producing an outstanding school musical: ‘Unlock the true potential of the school production and what it can do in terms of improving attitudes to learning, gaining accreditation for students’ contributions, and discover how arts staff – particularly drama and music practitioners – can work collaboratively to produce an outstanding piece of work, catering for a large number of students to maximise its impact on the student populous.’
In her 11:10 session ‘Serious Play’, Dymphna Callery presents an interactive workshop focussing on ‘play’ as an indispensable tool both for analysis and as a catalyst for creative approached to interpreting text.

At lunchtime there will be a yet-to-be-announced performance and some opportunity to explore the exhibitors, but we’ll also be having a ‘fireside chat’ with playwright Mark Wheeller, who wrote To Much Punch For Judy, among other plays – a work which is extremely familiar to drama teachers all over the UK.

After Lunch I will be heading to the session on Alexander Technique: Something I’ve never tried and have heard really great things about. Offered by the Royal College of Music’s in-house specialist movement practitioner, this is something which will be applicable to all attendees at the show, whether music, drama or performing arts teachers.

Next there’s a sample drama lesson to take part in, ‘Forbidden Fruit’, in which Amanda Kipling of Goldsmiths demonstrates how to hide assessment for learning in a lesson plan, so that it happens automatically – integrated along the way.

Finally, Nick O’Brien from Stanislavski Experience offers a practical approach to teaching practitioners 0 he’s basically a walking, talking version of the practitioner focus pages you’ll find in each issue of TD, and he’ll trouble shoot your practitioner teaching techniques in time for the new syllabuses and their set practitioners.

Day 2: 26 February 2016:

On day two, the warm-up is to be a drama session. Again, like everything at both shows, this open to all delegates, so you can rub shoulders with music teachers and feel a sense of quiet smugness that you’re in your comfort zone as David Farmer offers a wake-up call for the day’s activities.

The first sessions of day two present a real dilemma for me – whether to bust performance anxiety difficulties with a session on mindfulness for performers, or learn from Keith Burt about the fascinating idea of ‘Flipped Learning’ – a totally new way of approaching the dissemination of knowledge among your students.

Then there’s a watch-this-space to put in your timetable for the day: we’ll be announcing a session at 11:15 which will be of use to every drama attendee…more on this in due course.

Performances and fireside chats brighten the lunchtime lull, with an opportunity to listen and watch rather than getting hands-on, and of course there are the exhibitor stands to explore, but then I’ll be heading to Sarah Henderson’s session on ‘Laban in performance’, which will have us back on our feet and exploring a theory of movement which is applicable to life as well as drama and musical theatre.

Finally I’ve a choice of energetic ends to my day: a musical theatre vocal workshop with the ladies from Starling Arts: ‘Everything I know I learned from a musical’ or another yet-to-be-announced practical session from which you’ll be able to steal some tips to take back to school and throw something new into your next school production, or your students’ devising toolbox. More to come!

If you haven’t signed up yet, go to to do so, and then don’t forget to follow @TheMTDES on twitter and check back for updates, as more information will be released gradually in the run-up to the event.

We can’t wait!

National Youth Theatre launches new technical courses for 2016

For the first time, the National Youth Theatre will be holding auditions and interviews for their brand new three-week technical courses. The auditions, alongside the usual annual intake of performers aged between 14 and 25, will be held across the UK. Actors hoping to follow in the footsteps of NYT alumni such as Daniel Craig, Dame Helen Mirren, Chiwetel Ejiofor CBE and Sir Daniel Day Lewis can attend auditions between January and March 2016, with interviews for the new technical courses taking place in February.


NYT rehearsal rooms on Holloway Road, London

Artistic Director Paul Roseby says that anyone aspiring to enter into the world of theatre can audition or interview. ‘Whether you’ve never done drama before in your life or it’s the only thing you’re passionate about, if you’re interested in exploring your creative talent we want to meet you in 2016. As our former members in the entertainment industry and beyond prove, anything’s possible – but it starts with an audition or interview.’

Playwright and star of Bad Education Sarah Solemani began her career with the NYT, and said that ‘Auditioning undoubtedly changed my life. It gave me world class training, introduced me into the industry and gave me friends for life. I wouldn’t have the career I have now without it.’

Doctor Who and stage star Matt Smith confirmed the career boost the NYT gave him, saying it’s the reason he’s an actor. ‘It’s given me great confidence, opportunity and life-long friends. I got an agent through performing with NYT and now I’m a professional actor who’s working. It completely transformed my life. No understatement.’

The NYT prides itself on the extensive reach it has across the UK, allowing those from all backgrounds to join. With over 4000 people auditioning in 2015, of the 500 successful applicants, 75% were from outside London, 21% from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, and 55% were female.

Prospective applicants hoping to join the brand new technical courses can interview for programmes in costume, lighting and sound, scenic construction and stage management – fantastic opportunities for individuals aiming to enter into the technical world of theatre. Following course completion, applicants will become members of the NYT and will be able to build on their CVs and experience, working on West End shows and both national and international productions.

Those seeking to audition for the summer intake need to apply by 31 January 2016 at

Theatre Skills Award nominations open

Celebrating fantastic mentors and managers in the theatre industry, The Creative and Cultural Skills Awards 2016 have opened nominations for their Theatre Skills Award.

Nominees should be individuals who work within the industry and strive to provide young people with the opportunity to work and learn in the creative industries. They must also ensure that employers benefit from a skilled generation of talent and help the industries continue on a course of economic growth.shutterstock_134693633 (1)

Last year’s winner of the Theatre Skills Award was Geoffrey Joyce of British Theatre Technicians. Judges were particularly impressed by Joyce’s ability to pioneer a training provision, helping young people find a suitable route into the creative industries.

‘The technical theatre sector can now rely upon an introductory training provision which was developed primarily through the dedication of this one theatre practitioner and trainer,’ said the final judging panel of Joyce. ‘Geoffrey’s achievements are truly outstanding and the theatre sector is in debt to him.’

If you know an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the creative industries, you can nominate them for the Theatre Skills Award until Friday 8 January 2016. The prestigious ceremony will be held at The Backstage Centre on 2 March 2016. It is free to nominate someone; to do so, simply download the nomination form at


Edge Investments launches £40m arts fund

In light of declining arts funding, venture capital firm Edge Investments has opened up £40 million to the creative industries, intended to encourage flair and entrepreneurial spirit within smaller creative companies which might be suffering at the hands of declining arts funding.

Theatre companies wishing to apply for the fund will be able to do so on commercial terms, with Edge Investments seeking a minimum of a three times return over its seven to ten-year life for investors, who include high net worth people and businesses. This includes government-owned British Business Bank, who are committing £24 million towards the scheme.


The fund seeks to stop decline in the creative industries

While full details have yet to be confirmed, Edge Investments have divulged that they will look to invest in ‘fast-growing and revenue-generating small- and medium-sized creative companies, which have access to core intellectual property assets which Edge believes are poised to benefit greatly from the growing digital economy.’ ‘The creative industry is of increasing importance to the wider UK economy,’ says Ken Cooper, managing director of Venture Capital Solutions at British Business Bank, ‘and we are particularly pleased that this fund will ensure these high-growth businesses have access to the finance they need to scale.’

Chief executive of Edge Investments David Glick adds, ‘There are nearly 160,000 creative industries businesses in Britain. Yet despite being in this high-growth sector, many of them find it difficult to attract adequate capital to maximise their potential. Our new Edge Creative Enterprise Fund aims to fill that funding gap.’

While there is no specified deadline for securing financial support as yet, prospective companies can visit the Edge Creative Enterprise Fund website for more information at

RSC to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream with amateur companies nationwide

The Royal Shakespeare Company is recruiting hundreds of nationwide amateur actors to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream in its most ambitious project to date: Dream2016.


‘Titania and Bottom’ by Henry Fuseli (c.1790)

Midsummer’s Day this year saw the RSC announcing the 14 amateur companies from across the UK, who have been working in a unique collaboration with a group of professional actors to celebrate the Bard’s 400th deathdate. The production will involve a total of 687 people to make up the professional and amateur cast, musicians, and school children to play fairies in Titania’s fairy train – a total of 580 fairies, in fact.

Educational resources will be on offer once the show hits stages across the UK, beginning in Stratford-upon-Avon in February. 60- and 30-minute edits of the production will be available to primary, secondary and special schools, with a specially-composed score suitable for all ages and abilities. There will also be teaching resources providing guidance for staging the play, as well as the RSC Dream Team 2016 Playmaking Festival, which can take place in Stratford or with an RSC artist in schools.

Erica Whyman, RSC deputy artistic director, has been working on Dream2016 throughout the year. ‘I’ve always loved touring and care very much about having a proper relationship with regional theatres,’ she said, noting that this is the largest project she and the RSC have carried out to date. ‘No one has ever attempted to bring this all together in a professional production.’

The project seeks to bring forth modernity from Shakespeare’s play, with a setting in late-1940s Britain. ‘It’s about the country coming together after surviving a traumatic time and about the post-war austerity. It fits with the play.’

Owing to the distance between the amateur companies, which cover all nine English regions, Whyman has said that she had a Skype-style technology created to enable rehearsals to take place at the same time. ‘The challenge for me is making sure those regional voices really are in play. I want to get a real sense of these places.’

Among the professional cast will be Ayesha Dharkey as Titania, Sam Redford as Theseus and Lara Riseborough as Helena. Bottom will be played by school teachers from around the country – most of them men, with two women taking the role in Canterbury and Nottingham.

Dates and venues:

  • Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 17 February – 5 March
  • Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 16–22 March
  • Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 29 March – 2 April
  • Blackpool Grand Theatre, Blackpool, 5–9 April
  • Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, 12–16 April
  • Marlow Theatre, Canterbury, 19–23 April
  • Theatre Royal, Norwich, 26–30 April
  • Theatre Royal, Nottingham, 3–7 May
  • Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 10–14 May
  • Barbican, London, 17–21 May
  • New Theatre, Cardiff, 24–28 May
  • Grand Opera House, Belfast, 31 May – 4 June

For further information, including tickets, visit