Behind the scenes: A-Level Theatre Studies

By Sam A

Hello, to which ever unfortunate soul has found themselves sat here reading my blog. I am Sam, a student at Reigate Grammar School who is studying theatre studies for one of my A-Levels. I was recently offered the opportunity to write a blog about theatre at RGS and I have come to the decision to write a blog summarising the theatre that us A-level students have been to see so far, this year.

The first piece of theatre we went to see was ‘Road’ at the Royal Court Theatre; originally put on in 1986, John Tiffany directed the revival of the play. It is play about a street in an extremely rundown area of the north of England, in which the lives of people who have been completely neglected by the rest of society are explored. Each of the impoverished characters were placed, when delivering their soliloquys, in a glass box that rose from within the stage, and this combined with the towering brick walls resulted in a visually stunning play. With the exception of the Puck-like ‘Scullery’, all the characters delivered nuanced and convincing performances, most notably so the actress playing the woman desperate to sleep with a drunken soldier. Even 30 years on, the issues presented are just as relevant as ever, and with a stunningly creative set and thoroughly entertaining performances from nearly all the actors, the production was all in all a success.

Only a fortnight later, all the theatre studies student from lower and upper sixth once again returned to the Old Court Theatre, to this time see a production of ‘B’, followed by ‘Victory Condition’. In all honesty, I found both plays to be extremely dull. First up was ’B’; a play about three terrorists conversing the evening before carrying out an attack, and the problems that they encounter throughout the night. From the bland and, at some points, unnecessarily crude script, to the unengaging performances, there was no element of this long play that succeeded in entertaining me. It was hard to gauge what the director and the script write were aiming to achieve with this play, as it left me, and some of my peers very bored. Following the end of ‘B’, and a 30-minute hiatus in which the set was changed, ‘Victory Condition’ began. At first, the play seemed to be intriguing; the set was a modern open-plan flat in which two people, a man and a woman, were voicing their thoughts aloud, whilst both being totally oblivious to each other. However, this is where the intrigue stopped. I genuinely could not say what the play was about … because even by the end of it I still had no clue. Throughout the entirety of the rest of the play, this same mundane pattern continued of one character voicing an incredulously long monologue whilst carrying out mundane tasks like buttering bread, or ironing a shirt. Due to an incomprehensible plot, neither actor creating depth to their respective character, and the most entertaining element of the production watching ‘Skyrim’ being played on the Xbox, ‘Victory Condition’, like ‘B’, was a huge let-down.

After the half-term break, in the first week back we once again all made the trip to London, this time to go to the Globe to see ‘Romantics Anonym’, and what a worthwhile trip it was. ‘Romantics Anonym’ is a play set in France about a woman who is extremely gifted in the art of chocolate making, but suffers from crippling social anxiety. The story follows her on her journey to conquering her fears, with the help of her equally awkward employer. One of the most uplifting pieces of theatre I have ever seen, the play was an absolute success. The hugely talented cast were further boosted by excellent musicians, and all the songs were beautifully written, which collated to result in an utterly delightful piece of theatre. The set was intricately crafted, and the use of neon lights was an effective and amusing way to create location quickly. If you are looking for a piece of the theatre that is intellectually engaging and thought provoking, ‘Romantics Anonym’ may not be for you. But if you want to experience something that is uplifting and charming, then this play is one you can't afford to miss.

The most recent piece of theatre that we have been to see was a production of the Shakespearean comedy ‘As You Like It’, that was put on at The Richmond Theatre. In all honesty, I was not as excited about going to see this as I usually am about theatre, but the production of the classic play, with a modern twist on it, was pleasantly surprising. The set was very interesting; a steep rake was implemented, a telephone box and a water dispenser were key elements of the forest setting, and huge industrial-looking flats were slid in and out to create a claustrophobic atmosphere for the scenes set in the city. Furthermore, lighting was also used to great effect to create atmosphere. However, the standard of the acting meant that the overall quality of the production was much lower than it could have, and perhaps should have, been. All characters felt like they had not been explored in any depth, and some of the actors’ diction was often poor, meaning it was sometimes hard to follow what was going on. However, all things considered, the play was quite entertaining and provided a bright and cheery modern revival of the Shakespearean classic.

In the first two months as an A-level student, I have been lucky enough to go see a plethora of different pieces of theatre, all of which have all made me incredibly excited for the next two years.

Hugh EdwardsComment