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Drama and Theatre Studies

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The Performing Arts thrive at Westonbirt where there are plenty of opportunities both within the curriculum and as optional extras. Concerts and plays are frequently staged in the Orangery, the Great Hall and the newly decorated studio space, as well as found spaces in the school grounds.

Performances have aired in nearby cultural centres such as Bristol, Bath and Cheltenham and recently at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year over 70 girls were involved on stage and behind the scenes in a whole school summer production of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, which took place on the Orangery stage. Productions take place throughout the year, starting with ‘The Short Plays Festival in October’. Most recently plays have included highly symbolic interpretations of ‘Our Country’s Good’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ which took inspiration from a 6 hour workshop with a physical theatre company called Frantic Assembly. Our summer production of ‘Oliver’ saw our Great Hall transformed into a Dickensian drinking establishment for the week! A Spring Gala showcases the work of students from across all the year groups and further performances are delivered by the GCSE and A Level Drama groups. Recent performances have included, Macbeth, Mermaid and Agnes of God.

In between, Sixth Form students support events including the bi-annual House Dance and Drama competitions, lunchtime concerts and play host to visiting practitioners.

Many pupils opt to take individual or paired Speech and Drama Lessons, working towards ESB and LAMDA examinations to build both their confidence, English spoken word and performance skills. These pupils also have the opportunity to compete in the Mid-Somerset and Cheltenham Festivals of Speech and Drama.

Each term you can also sign up for trips to theatres in Bristol, Bath, Cheltenham, Cardiff or London to seek inspiration. These are sometimes coupled with backstage tours or workshops to enable to chance to find out more about the theatre industry. Over the last two years, a highlight of the Drama calendar has been the trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 2015, a group of Year 12 and 13 students prepared an interactive performance of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to perform both at the Fringe and in local venues and prep schools. The visit to Edinburgh also encompassed the opportunity to see a range of theatrical styles in practice as the girls managed to take in around 15 shows during their 5 day visit!

If you would rather help out behind the scenes, we are always looking for help with set-building, costume-making and prop design as well as recruiting lighting and sound technicians, so there is plenty for everyone to get involved in. 

What should you bring to the course?

A willingness to think, work with others, read, write, research and - above all - DO!
An interest in theatre and what it tells us about ourselves and our world

Students are assessed on their knowledge and understanding of drama and theatre, which is developed through:

  • The study of two set plays
  • Analysis and evaluation of live theatre
  • Creation and performance of Devised Drama
  • The study and imitation of a range of influential practitioners
  • Performance of a range of scripted extracts

Assessments

This is a linear course, with all examinations taking place at the end of Year 13. The 3 hour written examination is worth 40% of the A-level and assesses the interpretation of two plays from a list that includes Antigone, The Servant to Two Masters, Hedda Gabler, Metamorphosis, Our Country’s Good and Bronte. Candidates are also asked to write analytically about the work of theatre makers in live theatre that they have seen during the course.

In the practical components students will work both individually and in groups and may have the opportunity to specialise in performing, sound, set, costume, puppets and/or directing. The Devised performance (worth 20 marks) and the accompanying working notebook (worth 40 marks) represent 30% of the A Level. Students are required to study the work and methodologies of an influential practitioner and apply them to the process and performance of a piece. Practitioners may include the work of directors and companies such as Stanislavski, Max Stafford Clark, Katie Mitchell, Shared Experience, Kneehigh and Frantic Assembly.

The final 30% of the course requires students to undertake practical exploration and interpretation of three extracts from different plays and involves the application of a further influential practitioner. Students may contribute as a performer, designer or director. The projects are supplemented by a 20 mark reflective report, analyzing and evaluating the theatrical interpretation of all three extracts.

How will you benefit?

The course directly improves:

  • teamwork skills
  • presentation skills
  • problem solving skills
  • empathy skills
  • reading for meaning
  • analysis through practical work
  • Independent research skills

Whatever your future studies or career, you will probably need:

  • to present information or ideas with conviction
  • to apply methodology to solve current problems
  • to work as a member of a team to a common end
  • to recognise and use your creative side

All of this will be developed during your course.                           

Mr Andrew English

Head of Drama

 

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