Behind the Curtain

Posted on 21st Mar 2023 in

Each year, students across all three Schools prepare a range of fantastic performances for the whole community to enjoy. This term, the Mar Hall was home to the Junior School performance of Shrek the Musical and showcased the talents of Kaleidoscope dancers of all ages, whilst the TFC played host to the production of one of this term’s highlights – the Senior’s adaptation of ‘Dr Korczak’s Example’. Take a quick look at the team behind the scenes in our Instagram Reel.

The latter, written by former pupil and accomplished playwright David Greig, was co-directed by School Captain Zainab S and MES Drama Teacher Mrs Howarth, and serves as a perfect illustration of the range of transferrable skills that students develop through involvement in creative projects. We were able to drop in on the dress rehearsal and have a chat with the cast to find out exactly how the play’s development hinged on different communication skills.

The play is based on true events that took place in Nazi-occupied Warsaw where Dr Korczak, a writer and educator, ran an orphanage within the walls of the Jewish ghetto. In an interview Zainab S conducted with David Greig, the writer admitted that he enjoys seeing his work being interpreted in new and unexpected ways. We have no doubt that he would be pleased with the ESMS interpretation. The play is usually performed by a handful of actors using puppets, but in this case, Mrs Howarth felt the number of characters in the play allowed for a larger cast to take to the stage. The play was also cast gender-blind, prioritising the interests, range and abilities of each of the students taking part. Each of the ten cast members juggled up to three different parts in the play, while remaining in full view of the audience on a stage with a minimalistic set design.

The central themes of the play around the rights of children and their place in society only add poignancy to this open approach to directing. Giving the cast editorial input into how the lines were distributed would have likely made Dr Korczak himself pleased. The original text included monologues delivered by the protagonist, which our cast edited and split up between different characters. The students wanted their time on stage to be fairly distributed among all cast members, and giving everyone a voice emerged as a priority. As a result, throughout the performance, none of the actors dominated the narrative and the audience’s focus shifted continually, meaning that there were no small parts in the play and each line carried equal weight.

The play also featured some complex choreography, which was developed and perfected by the cast over several months. Designing and executing scenes requiring the use of props carefully concealed in the set required a high level of trust and understanding among the actors. Delivering complex scenes with the cast in full view of the audience is a bigger challenge when the actors cannot communicate with one another verbally on account of wearing microphones throughout the performance. With the unpredictable nature of a live performance, the cast had to intuitively respond to one another’s needs whilst maintaining composure, silently coming up with solutions on the spot without breaking character – something they successfully delivered for three nights in a row.

Taking part in School theatre productions is more than overcoming stage fright and delivering lines. It is also an exercise in team building, confidence, fostering trust, effective communication, and fairness. The potential for students to develop these much-needed life skills is only increased and nurtured by the open approach of our teaching staff who create a stimulating environment for creative ideas to flourish and develop.

With special thanks to Mrs Howarth, Lydia H and the entire senior play cast for sharing their experience of working together.


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