Drama: Beyond the Classroom
The theatre is as essential to civilisation as safe, pure water
Drama is one of the most exciting courses that you could ever encounter, with topics that range from exploring real-life issues such as racism, bullying and domestic violence, to recreating characters and plays performed decades or even hundreds of years ago by world-famous actors.
One minute in Drama you could be studying Naturalism and Stanislavski; exploring how to show detailed characters in realistic settings and scenarios. The next you could be playing a buccaneering pirate in a Theatre-in-Education piece for children, who learn that stealing doesn’t win you any friends.
A drama student needs to be a deeply imaginative, creative and adaptable person who thrives in any situation. Not only is the Drama student expected to be a skilled performer, director or designer, but also they must excel at essay writing too, approaching writing essays with the style of an A level student right from GCSE.
They must be able to analyse and evaluate their own and others’ practical work, to find meaning in the seemingly ‘meaningless’, explaining why actors, designers and directors presented a character in a particular way.
So what's to be gained from this intense but exciting subject? Employers say that Drama students have some of the most sought out and transferable skills out of any subject. It's because in Drama you learn teamwork, confidence, the ability to look at a bigger picture and most importantly the resilience to learn from your mistakes, and the power to pursue your vision and creative ideas.
So what can you do to improve your skills as a Drama student? Well the answer is LOTS. But here are just a few ideas to get you going...
This is quite simple really. Go and watch as much high quality, live theatre as you can. The theatre has never been more accessible. Even if you can’t get into London to see a show, cinemas are now screening live stage performances throughout the year from leading London theatres and companies. Look out for ‘The National Theatre Live’, ‘RSC Live’, ‘The Globe Theatre Live’ & ‘The Almeida Theatre Live’ in your local cinema listings. There can be no substitute for watching real, live theatre though. Witnessing the ‘magic’ of a professional theatre company work, not only gives you an opportunity to write about the work of an actor, director or designer in an exam response, it also feeds your creativity to have your own ideas about the theatre.
We would highly recommend the following theatres:
- The National Theatre
- The Old Vic & Young Vic Theatre
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Lyric Hammersmith
- The Royal Court Theatre
- The Unicorn Theatre
Most, if not all, of these theatres will offer a discounted rate for students, some even support a ‘Pay what you can!” initiative to encourage diverse audiences to attend. All of these theatres will offer excellent workshop opportunities in holidays and half-terms that you can attend to boost your performance skills or learn more about a specific aspect of the theatre so enquire with them when you book tickets.
It does not matter what you see; it could be a comedic or serious theatre piece, a musical or pantomime; it could be something brand new or something being performed for the umpteenth time; the most important thing is that you go and watch, learn and enjoy the show!
Write a review of a play that you have seen. Reviewing theatre is an essential skill at both GCSE and A Level and will give you advance opportunities to take your knowledge of theatre further. The Drama Department will happily share your theatre reviews and musings!
Why not contact theatres that are local to you about volunteering or working at the theatre? Try the Stag Theatre if you live in Sevenoaks, or The Barn Theatre in Oxted both of which have excellent opportunities to volunteer and also participate in youth theatre.
There is so much more to theatre than just the actors. Many smaller, regional theatres offer voluntary positions in technical theatre, such as sound and lighting, or working backstage or as an usher. These opportunities are perfect to help you hone your theatre skills. You might even get to watch some shows for free!
Wider reading is always a great way to develop your subject knowledge and Drama has loads of texts for you to read. The following texts are a great starting point for understanding the theory behind acting:-
- 'The Theatre and its Double' - Antonin Artaud
- 'The Empty Space' - Peter Brook
- 'Games for actors and non-actors' - Augusto Boal
- 'Theatre Games' - Clive Barker
- 'The Theatre of the Absurd' - Martin Esslin
- 'Free Association: An Autobiography' - Steven Berkoff
- 'Twentieth Century Actor Training' - Alison Hodge
In addition to this there are hundreds of plays that can be loaned from your local Library for you to read. Why not read a play before going to visit the theatre to watch it being brought to life?
There is no better way to get a full impact of the effect of theatre than putting on a piece yourself. You should think about every aspect including, but not limited to: playwright, director, actor, stage manager, publicity, LX and SX and front of house. Provision will be made for performance and rehearsal space of anyone looking to put on their own play as well as full access to the drama department's props, costume and technical elements. Get a group together and amaze your friends and family.