In a day of celebration, entertainment and artistry, 23 April 2010 saw the opening of West Buckland's brand new theatre. Within the exciting 150 Building, this airy performance space, equipped with up-to-the-minute technology, provides our students and actors with a fine venue in which to develop their skills and to perform.
Drama is hugely popular at West Buckland and the skills and confidence it engenders permeate every aspect of school life: well over a quarter of the Senior School took part in last October's Inter-House Drama Competition. Every pupil in Year 7 has one drama lesson per week; in Year 8 and 9 it forms part of a circus of creative subjects. In lessons, each child has the opportunity to develop essential performance skills and work in a structured environment to devise and act out short plays in groups or pairs. Respect for each other's performances is paramount and pupils are enormously enthusiastic about showing their work. It is always wonderful to see pupils progress to new levels of assurance through the course of their lessons and a number of students have auditioned successfully for the National Youth Theatre.
Drama is a popular option at GCSE and pupils can choose to be examined for their performance or performance support skills. The majority focus on performance and for them, the challenge is to create memorable characters in convincing situations for their audiences, using appropriate language and technique. Pupils have also been examined on their lighting, costume and make up designs. The 150 Building's new green room provides well-lit scope for practising make-up skills, taught at GCSE.
The drama created for the Edexcel GCSE examination tends to be rather different from conventional school plays because the pupils usually choose to devise the stories and scripts themselves, drawing on their own interests and experiences, so the work has a raw energy all of its own. In May 2012 the examiner was treated to plays around the theme of 'Everybody has a story that must be told', with stories about World War 2; how we judge other people by appearances without knowing the whole story; how a group of teenagers deal (or don't) with a friend's death; how conjecturing about an individual can be funny or shocking but way off the mark, and a lonely old lady's reflection on events from her selfish past. Most groups opted to work using storytelling and physical theatre, the latter inspired by the fabulous workshops with Frantic Assembly and Multi Story Theatre.
Although A-level Drama is not available in 2012-13, the 2012 candidates all achieved A grades for their performances. Their play, 'Pandora', turned the classical myth on its head to explore the value of curiosity to human society and contained some stunning and emotional physical theatre sequences reflecting their experience of Frantic Assembly's deeply moving play 'Love Song', seen in Plymouth.
Workshops and live theatre visits are an essential part of the GCSE and A-level courses; pupils gain enormously from seeing a range of productions, both locally and further afield. In 2011-2 students had the opportunity to see James Corden star in 'One Man, Two Guvnors', Frantic Assembly's latest play 'Love Song' and the acclaimed production of 'An Inspector Calls'. Tickets are already booked for a revival of Frantic's 'Beautiful Burnout' in October 2012.