School Play 2015
REVIEW OF PORTADOWN COLLEGE PLAY 2015
The annual dramatic production at Portadown College this year was a sparkling production of the heart-warming classic by Harold Brighouse, Hobson’s Choice, set in a Lancashire boot maker’s shop. The realisation of this play on stage began to take shape physically when a team of artists, inspired by the initial designs of former student Courtney Haire and led by stage designer and chief artist Megan Hamilton, transformed the stage into a series of locations which included a boot shop, a cellar and a prosperous home of 1890. The set designs featured paintings of shoes from the time, a landscape inspired by L S Lowry (an artist associated with that part of Lancashire) and paintings of royalty and naval heroes from the era. The set had been constructed by Mr Robin Black, a member of the College staff, and the management of the furniture and props, which displayed an admirable attention to detail, was expertly controlled by Stage Manager Jessica Peters, her assistant, Kirsty McNeice and their team.
The inclusion of a live brass ensemble, led by tuba-playing Mrs Linda Doogan, added a real Lancashire atmosphere as the audience arrived and they were grateful to hear a range of brass band favourites including the iconic Floral Dance.
The experienced costume team of Sneha Royson and Chloe Campbell, led by Mrs Miriam Nelson, paid similar attention to the smallest detail in the creation of everyday clothes and wedding attire for the whole cast. A range of charity shops benefited from the search for the perfect hat or boots to represent the look of 1890 and the producers were also grateful to the Belvoir Players in Belfast for the loan of several outfits and accessories.
Hobson’s Choice presented some formidable challenges for the hair and make-up team who had to make three female students, including the leading actress, look like older men. This was not daunting for either Mrs Kath Wilson or her talented team who, through the use of wigs plus imaginative make-up and hair design, rose to the challenge.
Backstage support is essential in any play, not least from the students in charge of the lighting and sound, and the College has been very lucky in recent years to have some outstanding support from the so-called SALT team. This year, Senior Prefects Richard Gilpin and Ryan Adair led their team of younger students admirably and ensured that their advice and expertise will be passed on to the next generation of ‘techies’!
However, arguably the most challenging part of staging any play is achieving the performances to convey the playwright’s intentions; in this case that involved creating refreshing comedy and convincing the audience that the situation was realistic. The actors in Hobson’s Choice achieved that goal perfectly. The central role of Henry Horatio Hobson, 50 year old, corpulent and irascible boot maker, was miraculously achieved by Year 13 student Evie Symington. In an outstanding performance, Evie transformed herself beyond the make-up and costume through her walk, posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice and comic timing. Hobson’s oldest daughter, Maggie, who has to stand up to her father, was played very successfully by Kerry Black, who mastered the Lancashire accent perfectly. Lucas Grady played the other key role of boot hand Willie Mossop who has to transform himself from a down-trodden employee with no confidence to an aspiring businessman of substance. Lucas conveyed this difficult transformation admirably.
These main actors were well supported by the talented Helen Kane and Juliette Roberts as Hobson’s other ‘uppish’ daughters and Reece Somerville and Tim Neill as their young gentlemen. The make-up department achieved the impossible in making Katherine Whitten and Tové Lappin look like men and these talented students completed the process with their acting abilities. There were also lovely cameo performances from Abbie Grills as an upper middle class customer, Kay Douglas as Willie’s former girlfriend and an unforgettable turn in a kilt by Jacob Bleakley as an almost caricatured Scottish doctor. These actors all kept up the pace, achieved the comic timing and, most importantly, entertained their very appreciative audiences on both nights. The cast were very grateful for the efforts of the staff direction and production team of Mrs Claire Press, Miss Pauline Curry and Miss Suzanne Gowing who were joined by one of last year’s Senior Prefects (who is taking a gap year), the very talented Myfanwy Carville.
The College play takes place at the end of November and there is an enormous amount of work to do by a team of dedicated students and staff. However, it is very rewarding and it has been commented on by senior staff that many of the students who have left the College to follow interesting and exciting paths elsewhere have had some connection with the production of the school play – either on stage or behind the scenes. Students are encouraged to take on leadership roles in their senior years and this develops initiative, resilience and creativity amongst many other skills and talents.
Theatre Visits at Portadown College
There are numerous theatre trips throughout each year at Portadown College. These are open to everyone but some will be of specific interest to certain year groups. Anyone is welcome to attend and theatre outings are particularly useful for Drama and English students, both at GCSE and A Level.
We aim to see quality productions which will augment students’ understanding of set texts, promote a broader cultural awareness and give them access to an interest which they can enjoy for life. We have seen many outstanding live productions, starring actors such as Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi and Ralph Fiennes, and some of these productions have gone on to Broadway where they have won Tony Awards.
We go to theatres in Armagh, Belfast and Dublin regularly. Recent trips have included War Horse, a spectacular production staged by London’s National Theatre and featurng life-sized horse puppets.
There may be other opportunities to see this play in the future as it is still on tour.
Two hundred GCSE students descended on the Abbey Theatre in Dublin recently and it was the largest group that theatre had ever hosted! The students were rewarded with a Q&A session with the actors after the play, made all the more exciting because the lead male actor had featured in both Game of Thrones and the Harry Potter films!
In September 2015, almost one hundred Year 12 students will be going to the Grand Opera House in Dublin to see an exciting stage production of Lord of the Flies. You can see the trailer for the play here:
All students will also be given the opportunity to see the film version of Macbeth when it opens in the autumn of 2015. Details will be in Assembly.
As well as live theatre, students have the chance to see NT Live productions as well as other top dramas from London. These are filmed live at London theatres, such as the National Theatre, and relayed to cinemas across the world, including Belfast. Students in 2014/2015 were thrilled by Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and A Level English students particularly enjoyed A Streetcar Named Desire starring Gillian Anderson.
You can see a trailer for Frankenstein below:
If you think you would like to see this exciting production, you will be able to see a recording of the live production in school this autumn.
Some prominent NT Live productions (such as Frankenstein) will also be available in September 2015 for students to experience in school.
Digital Theatre Plus
Many of the professional productions from London which have been filmed are available through an online streaming service called Digital Theatre Plus. The school subscribes to this service and all students can have access to it both at school and at home.
Lord of the Flies
Trailer for Frankenstein