DRAMA EXAMINATION EVENING
Another year, another Showcase! Well, no. A change of specification has meant that students doing Drama & Theatre at A-Level no longer present their pieces before an audience then receive feedback, so they can fine-tune and perfect their performances before the practical exam behind closed doors a few weeks later. This year’s Year 12 were the first to face the ordeal of having to perform their chosen pieces ‘live’ in front of an audience, with the ‘plot twist’ that this performance is also their exam, counting, with an accompanying portfolio and workshop work, for 30% of their final mark. Their performances on the night are judged and marked according to exam-assessment criteria, but they also have to be recorded for moderation purposes.
This adds to the stress and complications not only for students taking their exam on stage, but also for: Mrs Cook who had not just to ensure the exam/performance evening ran smoothly, but also to keep a level head to be able to assess the performances; her fellow drama teacher, Mrs Hall, who was coaxing, shepherding and reassuring the examinees (and anxious parents); and Mr Dyer, the PHHS wizard-coordinator for all things technical (operation of the filming, lighting, sound). All three were busily and constantly on the move, with the six performances taking place alternately in the Studio and the Main Theatre.
Faced with this daunting examination challenge, the students exuded remarkable confidence and assurance, going about meticulously preparing themselves and their stages for their play extracts. As six pieces were being presented in quite different styles and diverse settings, their exam performances involved much more than ‘just’ turning up to recite their lines on stage: they were responsible for designing their sets, ensuring props and stage furniture were in the right place on the night, checking the technical aspects (lighting, sound, etc.) before stepping out to deliver their acting performance in front of an audience of their examiner, parents, friends and fellow students. Even then, their evening was not done; they, of course, had to dismantle and clear up their sets so the next group could ready themselves.
For the exam, they are required to deliver a short extract in the style of their chosen practitioner, in this case Katie Mitchell. The half-dozen pieces were very varied: The City, a modern play presenting the fraught and dysfunctional lives and relationship of an urban couple; My Mother Said I Never Should, another contemporary play examining the oft difficult relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations; Blue Stockings about the challenges and barriers faced by the first women university students at Girton College, Cambridge, in the 19th century; a couple of ‘old favourites’ from Showcase days, Daisy Pulls It Off and The Crucible; and, finally, a play voted in the 1990s as the “most significant English-language play of the 20th century”, Samuel Beckett’s enigmatic Waiting for Godot.
The standard on the night was uniformly excellent. All I can say is “Congratulations” to all concerned, students and staff alike, for an excellent evening of entertainment, which, considering this was an ‘exam’, is an outstanding and remarkable achievement. And this was just the warm-up act for the forthcoming Much Ado about Nothing.
Mr Keith Watson