Nigel Parkin and Sarah Parkin
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand
One of the main goals of the Drama Department at Haileybury is to provide all of our pupils with the opportunity to improve their self-confidence and communication skills as well as giving them a solid foundation in the various aspects of performance. In the Drama Department we believe in the concept of pupil dignity, and although a large emphasis is placed on performance, we encourage the pupils to view each other's work in a supportive rather than judgemental manner.
We aim to deliver a programme that is both challenging and enriching, with considerable emphasis placed on the collaborative nature of the performing arts. Two primary aims run concurrently within the work of the Department. We seek to develop a range of specific dramatic skills, including movement and spatial awareness, mime, speech, improvisation and scripted performance. At the same time, through the medium of individual and group work, we seek to instil such personal skills as self-discipline, artistic and critical awareness, co-ordination, co-operation, organisation, self-confidence and creative imagination. These elements are taught from Lower School 1 to the Upper Sixth.
Drama is an option at Removes level and has proven to be popular, with three groups of pupils taking part in two lessons per week. We concentrate on the development of those skills that are specific to the GCSE Drama course. Particular emphasis is put on the need to work independently of the teacher, but at the same time with the other pupils, in order to produce practical work of a theatrical nature.
At GCSE level, two groups of about 15 pupils experience a wide range of theatre. This involves text work, workshops, trips and, of course, practical performance. The programme allows pupils to examine a range of social, moral and cultural issues and they learn not only to respond to strict deadlines but also to work as part of a team. All of the practical skills developed in the earlier years come together in the pupils' work at GCSE and AS and A2 Level. Pupils from all years are required to produce written assignments and undertake written reflection and evaluation.
All the exam courses aim to give pupils a broader knowledge of the theatre and the development of a sophisticated and sensitive critical faculty. For those who discontinue the subject after Lower School and Removes, the personal and social skills they have learned will be able to be applied across the academic spectrum.
At Sixth Form level A Level Drama is made up of 40% practical work and 60% written work. In terms of practical work, pupils are exposed to a range of different theatre companies, directors and practitioners before choosing one as the focus of their own practical work - which could be acting or any one of a number of backstage skills such as lighting, costume, set design etc. In the Upper Sixth, pupils devise their own play. They will see a lot of theatre before writing on one particular production in the exam. They also study set texts at both AS and A2.
Theatre is also offered as a subject in Group 6 of the IB. The Theatre course depends upon the candidates and their interests but we typically start by studying a world theatre tradition, like Commedia Dell 'Arte - researching it, designing for it, performing it. We also start preparing for the first IB performance and/or production which could be devised or scripted or anything the pupils want - it is up to them. We see lots of theatre and analyse it in terms of both design and acting. There is an opportunity to attend a three-day international workshop (in the UK) with theatre professionals and students from around the world who do the same course. Pupils are also often in the school play or directing House Drama, both of which can count towards IB coursework. We study a play in another tradition and make presentations to the class about our directorial ideas.
In all courses we go to the theatre in London, Cambridge and Oxford and analyse productions seen.
Haileybury has two major theatre spaces, the purpose-built, workshop-style Ayckbourn Theatre and Big School, a multi-functional space. Both are well-equipped with impressive lighting and sound facilities run by two Performing Arts and Events technicians.