It has been a busy few weeks for the Drama Department (ie me!) As well as frantic last-minute rehearsing for the two C S Lewis plays, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ (Years 5&6) and ‘The Horse and his Boy’ (Years 7&8), I have been privileged to attend two excellent and very inspiring courses. On 15.10.19 drama teachers from a range of prep and senior schools were invited to Hurst for an exciting day of practical activities with professional coach David Farmer. The morning was spent exploring drama games for developing ensembles, followed by an interesting discussion on ‘what is the purpose of drama?’ and then a session on ‘physical approaches to devising and directing’, using Shakespeare and folk tales as sources. The whole day was fascinating and it was very useful to share ideas and establish contacts between schools.

This led to Head of Drama at Hurst Prep, the lovely Rose Hall-Smith, visiting Vinehall on 15.11.19 to deliver a workshop to our Year 5 children; participants learned about the ‘seven states of tension’ and how they can be used to build character. It was a most enjoyable session during which they devised their own short scenes and played some very entertaining drama games.

I have also gathered lots of new and exciting ideas from an IAPS course at Trestle Theatre in St Albans on ‘Devising – the anarchy and alchemy of storytelling’, which I intend to put into practice during the Lent Term drama club on Tuesdays. Trestle are a very innovative theatre company who devise original pieces, often using their wonderful masks (I have a set that the children love!)

This term I have been working with both Year 5 classes at weekly drama lessons based around the grissly tale ‘Clockwork’ by Philip Pullman. Using the compelling text as a stimulus, with its larger than life cast, we have worked on characterisation, mime, improvisation, theatre craft, voice work, tableaux, short pieces of script and so much more. It is exciting to watch the children’s confidence grow, to see how their imaginations flourish as their inhibitions wither away. Some children thrive outside the confines of the classroom and the written word, acting with enthusiasm and retaining information through actions. They learn from watching others and giving critical feedback almost as much as performing and I have found them to be hugely supportive and encouraging of each other. Next term I hope to introduce the children to my treasured masks and move on to Pullman’s ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ as they seem to like the darkness!

Mary Alderson