Mrs Laura McConville- Head of Drama Department
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Guys and Dolls : Our 2017 Production
After the Addams Family was such a huge musical hit, trying to find a show that would live up to the musical expectations was a tough feat. However, when we came across ‘Guys and Dolls’, a cheeky chappy American Musical with upbeat songs for students and an audience to enjoy, it seemed the perfect fit.
‘Guys and Dolls’ is famously known for the 1955 musical rom com movie, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. All the hot gamblers were in town, and they were all depending on Nathan Detroit (Jim Toller) to find a new venue for their game. The problem is, Nathan needed $1,000 to secure the place. It’s a busy and energetic storyline, and after throwing in a few excellent musical numbers, we had quite a show.
Rehearsal started way back in September 2016, where 60 eager students started on their journey towards performing at Camberley Theatre, joined by an additional 14 students as backstage and technical crew, ‘Guys and Dolls’ had an impressive cast of 74 students, across all year groups.
Students and staff worked tirelessly to make this performance a show stopping event. I am incredibly proud of how hard the students have worked and the extensive hours dedicated to rehearsals, whether after school, late nights or weekends. Being able to take a production to Camberley Theatre for the second time was such a pleasure, and to work in a professional venue allowed the students to push themselves to another level. I hope you will agree that this combination of hard work and theatre venue, certainly paid off. Not only were we blessed with a great script and catchy songs, but the plethora of talent that the Gordon’s students exuded was excellent. It was a real pleasure to work with such a group of talented actors and backstage crew.
I would also like to personally thank Mr. Moss for the amount of support for the Arts that he demonstrates, and allowing us to perform at a professional theatre. I would also like to thank the amazing music team who co-directed the production, without them, the show would not have been the success that it was. To all the staff and backstage crew that dedicated themselves to every rehearsal and extra weekends, I am eternally grateful. A production does not happen just from rehearsals, behind the scenes Maintenance were building the fantastic set, and Facilities helped transport everything we needed and set up rehearsal spaces. They have been a Godsend.
Despite all of the stressful moments, the students made us laugh, made each other laugh, and made the rehearsals and production as amazing as it was. I can’t wait to start a new project with you all.
What the audience said:
‘I just have to say thank you for a great night out at the theatre last night. I can’t believe how professional the show is – such a lot of talent and total commitment to the performance. I was right at the front and could see that every person on stage was totally engrossed in their role. I couldn’t be more impressed.’ Julie Unsworth
‘What a treat - a brilliant show. We were so impressed by the professional standard of the production. The performances were really excellent and the whole ensemble deserve huge congratulations. The music, backstage and tech all worked so well together (we loved the hazer.)’ Pam and John Lea
‘A huge well done for Guys and Dolls – it was a fantastic production (awesome set) and the hard work of staff and students was so evident.’ Rebecca Knight
‘I felt I had to write to you after seeing “Guys and Dolls”. Such was the outstanding standard of acting from the cast and the professionalism of the crew, musicians and production team that it felt we were seeing a West End production. From the singing, music and excellent choreography, to the staging and the venue we were suitably impressed. Many congratulations to all involved and here’s to 2019 and the next musical show. It certainly made our two hour journey to Camberley and two hour return to our new home in Kent very worthwhile.’ Fiona and Steve Boorman
Coram Boy': Our 2016 Production
Not only was the production challenging for the students, with its dark and emotionally mature content, it was also a site specific piece based in Gordon’s stunning Chapel. This site presented us with some challenges; such as no holding room, no lighting bars and difficult sight lines. However, with the amazing vision of Tom Baxter we overcame every puzzle whether it was having lighting bars built or raising the seating! This exciting venue and the use of the aisle and all three exits, surrounded and immersed the audience in the intense and gripping story line. A special thank you needs to be given to Denis Robinson for allowing us to use the Chapel for such a fantastic event.
As ever, Gordon’s students were extremely enthusiastic to get involved in this production and as a result there was a cast of 50 and a back stage crew of 15. The students dealt with the challenging plot admirably and their talent shone through within the range of complex characters. We put the students through their paces with the use of many different entrances and exits, the combination of the naturalistic and non-naturalistic style, the singing and the use of physical theatre. The students rose to and exceeded our expectations and created an inspiring production. The student’s acting, use of physical theatre and interaction with the audience was all complimented by the use of lighting and music. This in-turn, combined with the atmospheric Chapel, brought the whole piece together beautifully.
The split cast provided an amazing opportunity for some of our younger students to obtain principle roles. Praise must be given to Keaton Hill and Ryan Knight who battled sore throats and fatigue but sang exquisitely over the three nights. The whole cast of younger actors brought so much energy to the piece and this, combined with our older actors truly showcased the range of talent that Gordon’s has. Special acknowledgement needs to be given to Victoria Howard-Andrews (Mrs Lynch), Alex Jaksic (Sir William Ashbrook), Rebecca Vernon (Lady Ashbook) and Milly Putley (Mrs Milcote); our Year 13 students, who should be credited for their maturity, commitment and passion for their roles. It will be sad to see these Year 13’s leave us at the end of this year but they have been excellent role models for our younger students and due to this I am confident that our younger practitioners will flourish.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved with this production behind the scenes, from Stage Managers and Technicians to Facilities, Maintenance and the Catering Staff. Without all your help and hard work, none of this would have been achievable.
'The Addams Family': Our 2015 Production
After a chorus of dead people, a fat, bald uncle who flies to the moon, a butler who doesn’t speak and multiple, complicated technical effects; we made it out the other side of The Addams Family…the biggest, most adventurous show that Gordon’s has put on yet! As my first full scale musical at Gordon’s I was keen to put on something exciting and new which The Addams Family certainly lived up to.
Taking the production to Camberley Theatre was such a privilege. Everyone, staff and students alike, rose to the occasion. Working in a professional venue certainly lifted and swelled our ambition, keeping us aiming for bigger, better, brighter and bolder. I hope you will agree that this certainly paid off. What the choice of show brought was a fantastic script, character and songs. What Gordon’s added was a feast of talent, dedication and enthusiasm. The principle actors, led ably by Sammy Parmenter and his two wives (so good we had to cast them both) Victoria Howard and Chloe Roddy brought such verve and individuality to the roles. It was a real pleasure to work with such a group of talented actors.
With over seventy pupils involved both on and off-stage it was clear that talent was to be found in every aspect of the show. The remarkable cast of young performers dealt admirably with long rehearsals, singing and dancing whilst acting “dead” and put so much effort and imagination into their deathly costumes which all combined to make such an impressive impact on stage. It must also be said that the pupil talent extended well beyond the reach of the stage, with several supporting either in the band or as part of the crew. I think what struck me most about working on this show was how truly inclusive it was.
Pupils from all year groups were working together, giving up countless hours, developing and rehearsing the work together and making, I am sure, lasting friendships as a result. I would also like to say an enormous thank you to the fantastic music team who co-directed the production and all the members of staff who dedicated themselves to making it such a success. It’s always the support and enthusiasm of staff and the clear, lasting impact that being involved has on pupils which makes productions like this worthwhile.
'Macbeth': Our 2014 Production
Having joined the school as Head of Drama in January one of the greatest pleasures I have enjoyed so far has been working with the cast of Macbeth. This fantastic production drew to a close on the 26th of February, having run for two nights to a packed gym and confirmed everything I thought I knew about drama at Gordon’s School – that we have some very talented and committed students!
The ambitious production was directed by Mr Graham and involved a cast of over 30 students performing an abridged, contemporary version of the play. The gym was transformed with the addition of a traverse stage, which was a first for this space, and although it provided additional challenges for the team of actors, directors and technicians, worked fantastically well with the dark, tense atmosphere of the play as it brought the audience so close to action.
The remarkable cast of young performers dealt with the difficult language and complexities of the plot admirably. It was a real testament to the talent of the pupils involved, who were able to convey characters and action so clearly and bring real meaning to the challenging Shakespearean text.
With some inspired direction from Mr Graham and skilful acting the eerie and supernatural elements of the play were ably brought to life, from the terrifying witches; cast as grotesque nurses, complete with gory and bloody battle wounds to the ghostly appearances of Banquo and the apparitions; achieved through clever lighting tricks and gauze. This really was a production where lighting and sound effects worked hand in hand with terrific acting to create the full effect.
Praise must go to the two principal actors who played the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; Alex Copolla and Cecily Brewster-Warner in Year 13 and the other principal actors in Year 13, Will Sidi (Banquo) and Zoe Beels, Sophie Andrews and Yasmin Sheehan (The Witches). These actors brought maturity and depth to the roles and showed ability and skill beyond their years. We shall be very sorry to see such talent leave us at the end of this year. Fortunately, as evidenced so clearly in the rest the cast, we have a rich pool of talent being nurtured in our younger years which will serve the school very well in the future!
'Grease': Our 2013 Production
Gordon’s school production of Grease played to capacity audiences on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th of March. The cast, crew and band have worked incredibly hard to create this production which was received with delight. The school gym was transferred into an American High School yard, cafeteria, bedroom and diner, amongst other venues, by the creativity of our set design team. The band created the mood wonderfully as did the sound, lighting and costume. The arrival of Greased Lightning, Kenickie’s car, was a highlight as was the dance which followed. Strong performances came from all the cast but particular mention must be made of Vivienne Salter as Sandy, Michael Broom as Danny, Pippa Boorman as Rizzo and Oliver Joseph as Teen Angel whose vocal performances were stunning. The Pink Ladies and T Birds created engaging comedy, ably supported by Eugene and Patty, our ‘geeks’!
However the strength of the production was the total commitment by all cast members, from Chorus to those playing main roles, which was clearly evident in the big numbers such as We Go Together and Hand Jive where everyone performed with energy and enthusiasm, filling the stage with vibrancy and colour. Our choreographers and vocal team have worked tirelessly to create, rehearse and polish these numbers.
Productions rely on the commitment and dedication of the entire team and we are grateful for all the extra time and effort given by the musicians, choreographers directors and technical crew.