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All good things must come to an end, and, sadly, that means the end of our wonderful blog. But with sad endings come exciting beginnings, and we are pleased to announce to our dedicated followers that we have moved to a new website, where all our news stories, reviews, features and polls can be found: http://www.teaching-drama.co.uk

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Three evenings of performance in London: an Editor’s Eulogy


I use the term ‘eulogy’ here in its simplest form, to mean ‘writing in praise of something’, rather than suggesting that performance in London is (heaven forbid) dead: I am in fact delighted to report that the performing arts are veritably throbbing with vitality, as far apart as Waterloo, Hackney Wick and Sloane Square, which is where I have spent the past three evenings.

ReHome Production Shots (Credit Mark Douet)8.jpg

Re:Home. Credit: Mark Douet


On Thursday 11 February I went to The Vaults in Waterloo to see a play which was part of the Vault Festival: something I can’t believe I’ve never done before. The venue is buzzing: it is uncannily like stepping out of London and the winter altogether and into one of the venues at the glorious Edinburgh Fringe. Atmospherically low-lit tunnels are plastered floor-to-ceiling with flyers and posters for the various productions showing, and the bar areas are overflowing with young and old, arty types and (there is, it must be said, a high beard-concentration) hipsters. The play was Don’t Waste Your Bullets on the Dead: a new piece by young award-winning playwright Freddie Machin, and it was everything fringe theatre should be: brilliantly acted by its cast of three (Naomi Sheldon, Ben Dilloway and Ciarán Owens), with no need for the extras in terms of classy set and tech that a high-budget production can afford. The plot, about a playwright’s escape into writing from a relationship she isn’t sure about, was compelling and heartfelt in its portrayal despite many (great) moments of surreality, and the script witty and delivered with beautiful timing. Though the show itself is now finished, Vault Festival continues until 6 March and I shall certainly be trying to catch a couple more shows before it ends.

The following evening was press night for Re:Home, a new verbatim play about the beleaguered Beaumont Estate in East London, created by Offstage Theatre and directed by Cressida Brown. Again the production took me to a fringe theatre I hadn’t been to before: this one, I didn’t even know was there, which is a reminder of how much there is going on in London night after night. Never mind the rats, I maintain that you’re never further than a few feet from good theatre in the capital. The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick was apparently recently voted #2 best theatre in London by readers of Time Out, so I would appear to be a little behind on this, but it’s a great little space: I am particularly a fan of a steep, amphitheatre-style rake. The play was gathered from testimonies and interviews of residents and workers on the Beaumont Estate, and was a ten-years-later revisiting of the concept: the original play, Home, having been put together by the same company in 2005 when the three tower blocks which comprised the estate were about to be pulled down. Again, the production had a small cast: four in this case: Waleed Akhtar, Hasan Dixon, T’Nia Miller and Rose Riley, and again it was stunningly acted – honest and moving but also at times very funny. The actors’ portrayals of real people of all ages who’d met and spoken to the director truly captured their humanity, and allowed the audience a chuckle at very recognisable mannerisms and characteristics, without ever being caricatures. The play felt very relevant to the community upon which it was built – and I felt that I’d have loved to watch it in a room full of those who might have recognised the people it portrayed, but even for me, coming from the other side of London altogether, it was a way in to understanding and appreciating the joy and the frustration in one of the many parts that make up my home city. The production continues until 5 March and I heartily recommend it.

In another completely different part of the city, I spent the following evening at the Cadogan Hall in Sloane Square, where the Amadeus Orchestra and conductor Philip Mackenzie were joined by Russian pianist Alexander Karpeyev for a performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto, followed by a screening of Brief Encounter. I love the intimate yet open space of the Cadogan Hall, and notwithstanding a very poor front-of-house decision to allow a stream of latecomers in and three disruptions in the front two rows, right beside the pianist who played heroically on, it was an extremely enjoyable concert. I’d never seen Brief Encounter in full, either, and it was a great environment in which to watch it, particularly because the now older lady who had been the little girl in the film (in fact Celia Johnson’s niece) was present in the audience. We all applauded and cheered her one line in a lovely moment of audience-camaraderie.

There is so much to see in London: not absolutely everything is good, and sometimes, just sometimes, I do wish I’d just stayed at home. But these were three brilliant, and brilliantly different evenings, and I felt extremely lucky to live where such things were only a train or tube or two away.




Hamlet in the Jungle

Shakespeare’s Globe brought Hamlet to the Calais Jungle refugee camp this week, the newest installment of their Globe to Globe tour and the third refugee camp it has been performed in.


Naeem Hayat as the titular character. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The tour, which began in April 2014 with the aim of reaching stages in every country of the world, was seen by around 300 refugees in Calais, hosted by the Good Chance project.

Though not part of the original tour, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole said that ‘two years is a long time in global politics,’ and it has also been performed in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and the Mirkazi camp in Djibouti. The stage was made from wooden pallets in the morning, which was used as shelter material once it had ended.

Hamlet is the story of a young man who is depressed and frustrated, between life and death, who does not know what to do, who is struggling to make decisions,’ said Joe Murphy, playwright and co-founder of the Good Chance project, which aims to provide a safe and welcoming space for expression in the Jungle. ‘That story is going to translate to thousands of people here who are in exactly the same position.’

Dromgoole confirmed that ‘it is a great privilege to play for displaced people in Calais. As a theatre company the only gesture we can offer is this: a show that we hope speaks to the human spirit at its greatest and its darkest moments.’

The audience were offered snacks and tea with synopses of the play in English, Kurdish, French, Arabic, Farsi and Pashto, and the reception was vastly positive. Benjamin, a builder from Iran described the language as ‘very beautiful. This is very good,’ while a young nurse forced to be a soldier in Eritrea said, ‘I’ve read the play in a book but never seen it. It is good to see theatre, good to see the English tradition. It is good to enjoy something.’

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 http://www.hotticketsforschools.com/competition.

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.

logoAs 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 www.musicaltheatredrama.co.uk 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 http://www.nyt.org.uk/events