Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Making a Drama out of a Take-Off

Making a Drama out of a Take-Off


Well, I enjoyed House Drama last night! Whenever we change things in schools, we do so with trepidation, because we know that just about everyone will complain! I suspect that young people are, in that respect, even more conservative than we adults are.

There’s no doubt that this new format was harder work. For nine days the four house casts have worked like fury, and I don’t underestimate that. Since more than one of the plays made mention of our messing around with the old style, it’s clear that directors and casts felt it keenly! So why did we change it?

One reason is that we’d done the same thing for four or five years, and it was perhaps getting tired, certainly predictable: and that’s not good for drama. Second, though it was amazing to see what a cast could produce in the way of very short playlets in just an afternoon’s rehearsal, and then individual talents could dazzle us with their improvisation skills, it was necessarily all done on a wing and a prayer.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s great to see RGS students thinking on their feet, moving fast and displaying treat talent on a minimum of rehearsal. But true excellence doesn’t stem from doing things on the hoof, even though I’m always proud of the way in which our students can wing it!

I’ve made much in recent weeks of the example that the Scottish rugby squad, who we believe will join us on Monday (their schedule is necessarily kept pretty quiet), will set us. It lies in the lessons that we, and above all our aspirational boys and girls, can draw from seeing the methodical, long-term, sheer hard work that goes in to reaching the peak of both individual physical fitness and team excellence that brings about the sort of success we saw in Scotland’s decisive win over Japan on Wednesday.

There are important lessons to be learnt here. Talent helps: but, as we keep saying, it is the methodical hard work (often described as the “10000 hours” to which Malcolm Gladwell identifies as leading to his outstandingly successful subjects in Outliers) that makes for real success.

So what would you rather have? A clever, slick bit of 3-5 minute work put together in a rush on the day (they really do that quite well)? Or would you prefer the far more polished self-written, tightly directed and excellently performed short plays that we saw last night? I know what I prefer. It was harder work: it took more time and it was better. Hmm. No surprises there, then.

I don’t think we lost spontaneity. There were some hilarious bits of ad-libbing when something went wrong: as for the cheeky off-the-cuff reference to a pig, I can’t repeat it here, but it had the audience rolling in the aisles. And I can forgive (just about, anyway!) the somewhat merciless take-offs of my assemblies. I guess the students need to be allowed to hit back once in a while.

I’m not saying that this is the format for the future: because nothing should be forever. We always move on, and find new challenges. As for this particular challenge, the four houses rose to it magnificently. It was a great evening’s entertainment: and it had quality too. That’s surely the RGS thing. 

Congratulations to all – particularly to the winners of individual awards, and to Stowell who won overall.

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster