Over recent years, Shiplake actors and actresses have gained a reputation for producing challenging, fearless performances often in unusual spaces. The Drama Department is based in the College’s very own theatre, with pupils encouraged to experiment with demanding plots and imaginative staging designs in order to realise their potential. Excellent tuition and support helps pupils to develop performance and production skills to excel on the stage and behind the scenes, depending on their individual skill-sets and desires.
The Shiplake Drama Department has sole use of the Tithe Barn Theatre, located in the listed Stableyard area of the College campus. The intimate venue thrusts performers in and amongst audience members to create an enthralling atmosphere for Drama productions.
The College owns its own staging and lighting equipment to host dynamic and imaginative shows. A magnitude of props and costumes have also been acquired over the years, with pupils never shying away from the opportunity to get into character.
The Drama Department works closely with professional theatre companies, local venues and theatrical equipment suppliers. This allows pupils to experience backstage tours of large London venues such as The National Theatre. In addition to backstage knowledge, it is vital that pupils see a variety of theatre styles and performances to inform their own productions. Workshops from visiting theatre companies and visits to performance-linked study days are regularly arranged.
The College has its very own Theatre Company, which has fashioned numerous entertaining productions over the past decade. The group was renamed Scruffy Penguin in 2014, and travels to Edinburgh in August to perform at the famous Fringe Festival each year.
Find out more about additional opportunities on our Co-Curricular Drama page.
Key Stage 3
Drama lessons in Years 7-9 offer pupils the opportunity to express themselves creatively on stage with the aim of developing their performance technique. A variety of theatre styles and genres are explored to enable pupils to discover their strengths. Each year, Lower School pupils work towards an annual performance in the Spring Term, while all pupils are welcome to participate in the large senior productions.
At GCSE, Drama is currently offered as a Performing Arts course. As well as allowing them to express themselves in performances on stage, the subject gives pupils a powerful insight into how a theatre company operates. Pupils will visit the theatre on a number of occasions, seeing inspirational and cutting edge live performances. All aspects are considered including marketing and publicity, lighting, staging, sound and front of house. In order to be a successful Drama student, you need to be able to work well as part of a team, have an interest in theatre and be excited, motivated and driven to produce some amazing performances. Drama also has close links with English, so the ability to write well and study texts in detail is important.
The course is structured around a vocational style of learning as pupils must operate as a theatre company. This makes the ability to work enthusiastically and as part of a team vital in order to achieve success. Each boy takes on a specific role in the process and production of briefs set throughout the year but working together and executing a showcase production which is assessed to determine final grades.
The course will consist of a practical element, which will take the form of both a devised and scripted performance, requiring pupils to work closely as a team to produce an innovative piece of theatre. The written element of the course will require pupils to study a published play from a director's perspective, as well as reviewing live productions in the form of an analytical theatre review.
At A Level, we currently offer Drama and Theatre Studies. In addition to practical performance work, the specification requires candidates to have a thorough knowledge of set texts and the work of landmark theatre practitioners. Strong research, essay writing and analysis skills are necessary to ensure a strong result on the course, as well as outstanding commitment as pupils are required to rehearse beyond lesson times.
Some pupils have progressed into some of the most prestigious acting schools in the UK, and some are working in various plays around the country. This is an excellent opportunity to prove to universities or future employers that they are accomplished public performers.