Drama and the Performing Arts promote self-confidence; co-operation and inventiveness encouraging and supporting everyone to explore and appreciate their own ideas and creative freedom of expression.
Drama is part of the Year 9 curriculum at the Senior School, and is a popular option at GCSE with further opportunities to continue into the Sixth Form, studying A level Theatre Studies or IB Theatre. Throughout the department the emphasis is on encouraging a high level of independence, Drama students are encouraged to be active participants in the creative process, finding their place within a team, taking risks, and daring to fail, practically realising their own ideas and recognise the achievements and creativity of others.
Theatre trips, workshops and the opportunities to talk and work alongside theatre professionals are crucial elements in the teaching and learning of theatre, which as a living art form is constantly changing. The trends and fashions of current practitioners form the basis of much of our Sixth Form work, which then influences the younger students keeping the work fresh and innovative across the age range.
In addition a large number of students participate in our main school productions each year. The opportunity to take centre stage and perform as a principal or a member of a committed chorus in a musical on The Auden stage is something that is seen by many as an essential part of the Gresham’s experience. Our recent performances have included The 39 Steps, The History Boys and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Our Michaelmas musicals have included We Will Rock You, Sweet Charity and Grease. These experiences are clearly influential in the lives of many recent students who have gone on to win prestigious places at LAMDA/RADA/Central School of Speech and Drama and ARTS ED.
Our students take responsibility for every aspect of production from the hospitality of our Front of House Stewards to the unsung heroes of productions, the technicians who, under the supervision of our professional technical team, gain the confidence and skills to operate the lighting and sound desk or crew the shows from the wings.
The Auden Theatre is a professional and versatile venue for our own productions but we are also a recognised mid-scale receiving house and one of the key venues, alongside our beautiful Theatre in the Woods, for the Holt Festival. The range, scale and variety of performances to which our pupils have access throughout the year is developing and aims to provide an extra artistic and cultural dimension to their term time experience and that of the wider community.
Drama Scholarships on transfer to the Senior School and into the Sixth Form are offered. Please visit our page on Scholarships for more information.
“Gresham’s, in many ways made me the person I am today. It was the first place I ever acted. Crucially, it was the first place I wanted to act. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been an actor at all if it weren’t for Gresham’s.”
Olivia Colman, Academy Award winner and former Gresham’s School pupil.
Year 9 Drama
Pupils in Year 9 are on an Arts Carousel with 2/3 lessons a week during which they are introduced to a Drama Tool Kit, establishing a foundation of skills and techniques on which to draw as they begin to create and evaluate their own work. This is embedded in a practical introduction to Theatre History, which gives students an overview of the key developments that have shaped European Theatre. Working in our black box studio, students are gradually introduced to the drama medium of lighting and sound and how production elements can support the creative process. Students begin to build a subject specific vocabulary of terms and techniques giving them a shared language when creating their own work and evaluating their performances and the work of others.
Pupils are given the opportunity to work independently within a given framework to encourage good studio practice, freedom of expression and positive critical appreciation of their own strengths and weaknesses as a student of drama, and the ability to recognise as a member of an audience what makes an effective piece of theatre.
We now follow the AQA specification (Drama) – click here
The course is excellent preparation for AQA Drama and Theatre which we offer at A Level and provides students with a solid foundation in creative, practical and performance skills.
It is important for students to engage in and actively explore a wide range of activities that are stimulating and creative, drawing from a variety of situations and contexts that they can relate to.
GCSE Drama encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and become effective and independent learners. With the focus on working imaginatively, collaborating creatively and communicating effectively, GCSE Drama provides a solid foundation for further Drama studies and vocational opportunities.
The strengths of the course:
– The freedom in the choice of texts studied so we can choose the text to suit the strengths and interests of the cohort.
– The importance of live theatre introducing students to a range of theatre experiences.
– The choice available in the practical work from acting to puppet making, set design to make-up.
– The fact that students are assessed for contribution and ability during the devising process of their assessed performance, as well as the design or performance itself.
– The opportunity to work collaboratively and to communicate creatively.
– It’s potential for a vocational career path.
This specification helps students to develop their:
– knowledge and understanding of style, genre and social context;
– performance techniques – interpretation, improvisation, voice, physicality, stage relationships with others;
– design skills – interpretation, visual and design impacts and the use of scenic devices;
– technical abilities – lighting, sound, technology and appropriate equipment;
– practical skills – from making masks and puppets to make-up;
– collaboration and communication skills;
– enquiring and reflective minds;
– independent thinking and working.
For specification at a glance follow the link here.
We offer two courses for Sixth Form, A Level Theatre and IB Theatre both courses are designed to widen and deepen pupils’ practical and theoretical understanding of the subject and are taught in, and make full use of, our excellent facilities, The Auden Theatre and our fully equipped black box studio Scruffs.
For A Level we follow the AQA specification.
A Level Drama and Theatre Studies, which helps students to pursue their interests and skills in a range of practical drama elements including: acting, directing, technical-lighting and sound, design-set, costume, make-up and mask.
In the Lower Sixth students devise an original piece of theatre to illustrate their understanding of an influential director, designer, Theatre Company or other practitioner. In the second year candidates explore 3 different play extracts and consider the challenges of staging the work performing one extract in front of a visiting external examiner. At the end of the second year students sit a 3 hour written paper answering questions on two set texts studied during the course and live response based on productions seen over the two years.
The content of this A Level specification follows through from the AQA GCSE Drama specification enabling a smooth transition. However, the GCSE is not a requirement for students who want to take the A Level course.
This specification also enables pupils to gain an entry qualification for courses in higher education in Drama and Theatre and other subjects.
A Level Drama and Theatre is for pupils who enjoy reading and watching plays, and taking part in them, whether performing, directing or designing sets and costumes. It offers pupils the freedom to choose both the content and the form of their practical presentations.
The strengths of the course are:
- pupils have creative and interpretative freedom;
- pupils can attend any live theatre production for the AS written paper and bring their experiences into class;
- written papers add rigour to the course and help ensure that students understand the way plays relate to their historical, social and cultural context; pupils develop confidence, team-building, communication and other life skills;
- the work of significant theatrical practitioners is considered and that pupils understand the connection and other life skills that work;
- the work of significant theatrical practitioners is considered and that pupils understand the connection between theory and practice.
Our pupils enjoy:
- the group work that is at the heart of this course;
- the range of play choices – one to be chosen from six set plays for each written paper;
- being able to go to any live theatre productions to prepare for written paper;
- having the skills to analyse and appreciate any drama or theatre;
- the opportunity to devise original work;
- being able to consider work by influential playwrights, directors and theatre companies;
- developing skills that could help them in many different careers;
- skills pupils develop with this specification.
This specification will help pupils to develop their knowledge and understanding of a range of practical drama skills including: acting, directing, costume, set designing, mask-making and technical design.
For specification at a glance please click here
Theatre is, as influential theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht famously said ‘not magic but work’ though the rewards are undeniable and though we work hard in rehearsal, we play hard too. Former pupils from the last ten years are currently studying at Central School of Speech and Drama, RADA, LAMDA and Arts Ed to say nothing of the extraordinary high profile career of award-winning actress Olivia Colman.
The IB Diploma Programme Theatre Course is a multifaceted theatre-making course of study. It gives pupils the opportunity to make theatre as creators, designers, directors and performers. It emphasises the importance of working both individually and collaboratively as part of an ensemble. It offers the opportunity to engage actively in the creative process, transforming ideas into action as inquisitive and productive artists.
Pupils experience the course from contrasting artistic perspectives. They learn to apply research and theory to inform and to contextualize their work. The theatre course encourages pupils to appreciate that through the processes of researching, creating, preparing, presenting and critically reflecting on theatre – as participants and audience members – they gain a richer understanding of themselves, their community and the world.
Through the study of theatre, pupils become aware of their own personal and cultural perspectives, developing an appreciation of the diversity of theatre practices, their processes and their modes of presentation. It enables pupils to discover and engage with different forms of theatre across time, place and culture and promotes international-mindedness. Click here for more information.
Key features of the assessment model
- Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL).
- Pupils are assessed both externally and internally.
- Theatre -The Core Syllabus
Theatre in context, theatre processes presenting theatre
During the first year of the course pupils experience:
- Creating theatre based on theatre theory, working with play texts, world theatre traditions and collaboratively creating original theatre
- The pupils are examined in their second year on the following four tasks for Higher Level (HL) and three for Standard Level (SL).
External Assessment Tasks
Task 1: Solo theatre piece (HL only)
Pupils at HL research a theatre theorist they have not previously studied, identify an aspect(s) of their theory and create and present a solo theatre piece (4–8 minutes) based on this aspect(s) of theory.
Task 2: Director’s notebook (SL and HL)
Pupils at SL and HL choose a published play text they have not previously studied and develop ideas regarding how it could be staged for an audience.
Task 3: Research presentation (SL and HL)
Pupils at SL and HL plan and deliver an individual presentation (15 minutes maximum) to their peers in which they outline and physically demonstrate their research into a convention of a theatre tradition they have not previously studied.
Internal Assessment Task
Task 4: Collaborative project (SL and HL)
Pupils at SL and HL collaboratively create and present an original piece of theatre (lasting 13–15 minutes) for and to a specified target audience, created from a starting point of their choice.
Extracurricular Drama at Gresham’s aims to produce imaginative, challenging and rewarding experiences for both our audience and the pupils involved onstage, backstage and front of house.
We are fortunate in having a range of well-equipped and versatile spaces. The Auden Theatre is home to the Drama Department and is both an extraordinary teaching space for the academic courses we offer but a professional venue with two full time technicians, theatre administrator, front of house manager and box office. As a receiving house we balance a programme of outside productions and our own work. The Auden hosts a musical in the Michaelmas term with a Lower School production in the Lent term. In the summer, we take to our unique Theatre in the Woods for a celebration of Drama, Music and Dance. The re-introduction of a small-scale Senior School production in the Michaelmas term making full use of Scruffs our fully equipped, intimate black box studio. This in addition to our A Level, IB Diploma and GCSE exam performances make the department a busy, diverse and exciting place to be.
Pupils as a matter of course act, direct, stage-manage, light, run sound, design and increasingly write their own work as part of the drama curriculum but this is also the pattern for our main school productions directed by the Drama Department staff.
Participation in extracurricular Drama is very popular with large casts and crews signing up for the productions and pupils making the most of the opportunities offered, Theatre as influential theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht famously said, “Is work not magic my friend” but the rewards are undeniable and though we work hard in rehearsal, we play hard too.” Former pupils from the last ten years are currently studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama, RADA, LAMDA and Arts Ed. From the extraordinary high profile career of award winning actress Olivia Colman to the innovative successes of Curious Directive led by Greshamian director Jack Lowe and most recent graduate Jack Gillett taking on the role of School Boy Assasin in Deadly Class An American TV series taking to the screen in 2019 to name but a few.
Recent productions have included The 39 Steps, The History Boys and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Former musicals have included Sweet Charity, Grease and We Will Rock You.