Drama and performance, including the school production, at d’Overbroeck’s is about much more than learning lines and performing: it is also about unleashing students’ dramatic creativity.
We encourage this by exposing them to many different styles and genres of Drama, both scripted and improvised, from mask work to puppetry. We give them considerable ownership of their creative pieces, and support them in taking creative and intellectual risks.
We want our students to be creative, lateral thinkers, whether they are aiming to be physicists, poets or performers.
Drama at d’Overbroeck’s is also a vehicle through which students develop confidence in themselves – not just as performers, but as individuals and members of a broader society. We put a strong emphasis on a collaborative approach. Everyone has an input; every individual’s aptitudes are recognised. Through Drama, our students develop self-assurance, empathy and imagination as well as their talents.
We work with students on traditional approaches to theatre, but also use Drama to address relevant contemporary issues. Students will learn about all aspects of the theatre, from acting to stage management, working in costume, set and lighting design.
The d'Overbroeck's annual production
Every year we mount a full-scale production which is open to all students at d’Overbroeck’s, from Year 7 to 13. We alternate yearly between a musical and a straight play, which allows students with different talents to shine in a big-budget production that challenges and stretches their acting abilities. We aim to ensure that everyone who auditions is given a part while the audition process itself is friendly and unthreatening – indeed, at
times we cast plays from workshop sessions without having to hold “proper” auditions at all.
We take the directing of the School Production seriously and try to treat it as a professional production. Plays are chosen to allow for interpretative scope: for example, The Tempest in 2010 was set in the future on a floating junk heap of computer parts and 2012’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was relocated to 1970s small-town America. Our 2013 production of Peter Pan was set during WWII, using the idea of the Lost Boys as evacuees. In terms of musical theatre, past productions have included Guys and Dolls, Singin’ in the Rain, Les Misérables and The Wizard of Oz, each taking advantage of the large casts and phenomenal talents available to us from across the school. We are constantly commended by audiences on the strength of our concepts, designs and interpretations and we feel that, for the students, it helps bring classic plays to life in imaginative, exciting and cutting-edge ways.
As well as the major annual production, there are a variety of other opportunities to get involved in Drama throughout the year – whether as a first-time actor or a seasoned performer- including the annual House Drama Competition, where every form group from Year 7 to 10 presents its own performance of excerpts from one of their English coursework texts. These performances are chosen, devised and directed by the students themselves. Prizes are awarded for best play and actor in each year group with an external judge, and competition is fierce yet friendly.
Theatre trips and workshops
We are lucky in many ways to be situated so close to the centre of Oxford, not least because it allows us to easily stroll down Walton Street to the Playhouse theatre, where we frequently take students of all year groups to see productions. Additionally, we have organised several trips to the West End in London and to the Warwick Arts Centre. We begin our first course each year with a trip to London to see two plays and we frequently take all our GCSE and A-Level students to shows as one big group. Seeing professional productions of an exceptionally high quality is a vital part of the Dramatic education we offer. We also like to get professional companies in for workshops and have hosted a seminar with the world-renowned Cheek by Jowl and physical theatre workshops by the award-winning Idle Motion. An understanding and engagement with the professional world of theatre is crucial, not least because many of our students go on to drama school post-A level.