The BGS drama department vision:
- To produce theatre which entertains, surprises and inspires
- To foster a school-wide culture of appreciation for the performing arts
- To enable all students to achieve as highly as possible at theatrical performance, direction, devising and design
- To instil cross-curricular and life skills such as vocal clarity and projection, self-confidence, people management and creative problem-solving
We believe that drama is not only a full academic subject of study, but also a vehicle for great personal growth. It also has the advantage of being distinctly memorable because it is a total experience – visual, interpersonal, emotional and physical. What you learn by producing theatre is not always what you planned to learn, but it is always far more than you thought you would learn, and it sticks forever.
Drama across Key Stages 3 and 4
Students come to BGS with a huge range of different experiences of drama; around a fifth have never had a drama lesson, so the Introduction To Drama unit helps to get everyone up to speed, so that they can perform clearly without making any huge mistakes (no backs to the audience after this!). Then students are encouraged to be a bit braver and tackle Improvisation, which emphasises the value of ‘letting go’ in order to produce devised work which is truly creative. The Storytelling unit builds on performance skills, but allows students to be directors too – and watching themselves back on video is a truly effective learning experience! Finally, some Script Work gives the opportunity to produce a polished group performance, and have a go at theatrical design.
The year 8 course starts to introduce some more specific theatrical knowledge and skills, such as an understanding of different theatrical spaces like theatre-in-the-round in the Audiences and Spaces unit. Theatrical history is then explored through Masks and Greek Theatre, which requires students to design and make a character mask, and compete against each other in teams of around 10 to perform the tragedy of Agamemnon. Students then gain an understanding of drama as an educational tool, by using forum theatre to explore Conflict Resolution.
Year 9 marks the beginning of the OCR GCSE course (ref. J316). Due to the fairly infrequent lessons at key stage 3, it is essential to build a base of GCSE-level skills before undertaking any exam assessment. Therefore, the year 9 course first delves deeper into concepts like semiotics and design, and the history of theatre. Students hone their physical control with some stage combat to prepare them to tackle tougher performance challenges. They then explore the work of practitioners like Stanislavsky, Brecht and Frantic Assembly to broaden their concept of what theatre can look like and feel like. Finally they are introduced to the reviewing aspect of the written examination by watching and analysing a live theatre performance. This forms the end-of-year exam.
Due to the introduction of the three-year Key Stage 4 in 2016/17, the year 10 course looks much like the year 9 one until February half term. Students then have the skills to undertake their first GCSE assessment, a devised piece produced from a choice of stimuli provided by the exam board. Finally, they are introduced to reviewing skills which are used in the end-of-year exam to review a live theatre performance they have seen.
The current year 11 study the outgoing OCR GCSE course (ref. J315). By this year they have completed one controlled assessment, a scripted piece and accompanying working record. The first half of year 11 is spent honing performance and devising skills and preparing for the second controlled assessment, a devised piece based on a stimulus. Finally, they prepare for the practical examination by taking on a brief as either performer, deviser, director or designer.
All BGS students have the opportunity to audition for the November production, and auditions are held in late June of the previous year, or in September for new year 7 students. There are usually smaller performance projects going on, such as the choral poetry we performed at a concert for the Royal British Legion in October, commemorating 100 years since the Battle of the Somme. Theatre trips are organised on an ad hoc basis when there is a production available that could enhance students’ understanding of English or drama. We also have links with Fourways theatre company in High Wycombe and MN academy in Windsor.