Partner: Roxeth Primary School, Byron Hill Road, Harrow
Partner type: Maintained School
In 2018, the department launched its most ambitious community project to date. A company of Harrovians from across the years collaborated to devise an inventive, interactive piece of theatre aimed at primary school audiences between the ages of 5-7. The project was led by this year’s Director-in-Residence, Annabel Morley. The development and rehearsal process started in November, and the show toured local primary schools in the Spring term, together with an interactive workshop, led by the company. As part of the project, a pupil-led marketing and design team put together artwork, a marketing pack and a press release for schools, allowing teachers to explore themes from the show with students prior to and following the performance. The company were pioneers of this exciting new venture, with a sight to continue devising and developing work for young audiences in the years ahead. The department fundraised towards the cost of touring the show to local schools, allowing as many primary-aged pupils as possible in the local area the opportunity to engage with the project. Proceeds from charitable collections at the department’s productions during the year have supported initiatives including access programmes at London’s Polka Theatre for Children, and the Harrow Club’s Grenfell Tower appeal.
In Spring 2018, the department also worked with pupils from Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon on the major Rattigan Society Production of the year, Oh! What a Lovely War. Six girls from Bishopshalt joined the company, rehearsing regularly at Harrow.
Report on Primary Project:
It was a cold November afternoon in which 8 Harrow boys from a variety of years sat down in the newly completed drama studios not really knowing what to expect. They started off with a blank piece of paper and were given a brief by Director-in-Residence Ms Annabel Morley. The challenge was to devise and perform a piece of theatre for primary students in local schools. Many of the boys were rather inexperienced in this field, and none had ever devised a piece before. Nevertheless, over the course of a month the boys worked hard, taking inspiration from newspaper articles and previous theatre dedicated for children, and finally had a set idea which we could put into practice during the first half of the spring term.
The idea itself was thought upon by a culmination of ideas from the boys, and with a huge helping hand from Ms Morley, soon the script was complete and ready to be performed. This did, however, require a lengthy rehearsal process in which the script was continually modified. One of the main aims for the performance was to introduce the children to theatre, as, as we discovered during the performances, some of the students had never seen theatre. The intention was to give a fun, yet also thought-provoking play, in which there would be plenty of audience interaction.
By half-term, the boys were ready to go and were keen to get to the primary schools to perform. The first stop was at the very local Roxeth Primary School, the boys were feeling nervous about how the young pupils would react. Would they find it funny? Would they understand? Would they laugh? Any doubts were immediately eliminated as they were greeted by 100 or so giddy 5-7-year-old students, looking forward to a Wednesday afternoon treat. The pupils clearly gained a huge amount of enjoyment from watching the performance. They were very keen to come up and help the Singing Dentist when he needed help fixing the teeth on the Woolly Mammoth. The next two performances at St Anselm’s and St Jerome Church of England High School also went very well. The children were energetic, and lively as ever, making enough noise to bring the roof down.
One of the key parts of devising the piece was to make the play educational, and there were many messages and themes that the children (maybe even the adults) took away with them. The central message that is highlighted throughout the play is the importance of looking after your teeth, and not eating too many sweets. The other themes were the importance of learning from mistakes, not taking what doesn’t belong to you, helping others and seeking help when you need it, even if you feel you could be in trouble. Most crucially though, the biggest message was to dream big, and never give up!