Richmond School Theatre Company took to the stage at the Georgian Theatre Royal to showcase two outstanding performances which were directed by the students themselves. Twenty-nine students from Years 7 to 10 presented ‘Caelum and Cavea’, written by Ellie Hughes, a Year 10 student, and ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’, by Alan Ayckbourn.
As well as writing ‘Caelum and Cavea’, Ellie Hughes co-directed the piece with Lily Holmes in Year 10. The 24-strong cast’s performance was superb, with fabulous backstage support managed by the Technical Group members, Faye Hankin, Lily Parker and Arlo Wheatley.
Ellie’s Caelum and Cavea is set in a dystopian world with a divided society of the Servants and Colombinas where the Colombinas took over society and stole freedom away from the working-class. It follows the story of April, the main protagonist, who wonders what her life would be like if she lived in Caelum. She decides that life is too short and too mysterious to ‘wonder’ and April’s journey in Caelum changed her life for the better, breaking down the barriers and fighting for equality.
Ellie, writer and co-director, said: “I enjoyed my experience at the Georgian immensely. This is my first play and watching it being performed, I couldn’t help but think “Wow, I wrote that”. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity and I have learnt so many new things along the way. Studying GCSE Drama has definitely been one of the best choices I’ve made in my time at Richmond School and from being an exceptionally anxious student, it has helped me become a more assertive one. This whole experience of being able to have a go at writing, directing and acting really gave me the chance to build new skills.”
After the interval, a cast of eight from Years 7 and 8, led and directed by Toby Watson, in Year 12, performed their version of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’. The simple plot concerns Ernie being taken to see a doctor by his parents, who are concerned about their son’s hallucinations – or ‘illucinations’ as Ernie has it. This is a bright comedy based on the extraordinary powers of Ernie Fraser, a day-dreamer with a difference who, like all schoolboys has a vivid imagination, but Ernie’s thoughts have a disturbing habit of turning into reality.
Mr Birdsall, Associate Assistant Headteacher for Extracurricular Development and Engagement said: “We are very lucky that our students are extremely proactive and passionate about what they do. With both the junior and senior Theatre Companies, we allow our students to lead and have a say in the work that they would like to produce. This year was exceptional for student leadership as Ellie and Lily asked if the Junior Theatre Company could perform Ellie’s script and for them to direct it themselves.
“Toby Watson was looking for more leadership experience within school and college and offered to use his excellent Drama and Theatre knowledge and love of comedy, taking over the directing of Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations.
“This experience has been fantastic for everyone in the Theatre Company, from them being led by students either a similar age or older to seeing their work on a stage with a paying audience. In turn, this has already prompted conversations with Toby about an all-male project on ‘The Christmas Truce’ by Phil Porter which will be showcased next year.
“I would like to extend our deepest thanks to our Trustees who funded the scripts, performance rights and props for our 2023 Theatre Company productions.”
Richmond School and Sixth Form College is extremely fortunate to have an educational partnership with the Georgian Theatre Royal and both staff and students are privileged to have this opportunity. The school is very grateful to Clare Allen, Chief Executive and Theatre Manager, and her team for always being so welcoming and making every visit such an enjoyable and wholesome experience for our students to work in a professional theatre.
Following the success of these performances, which came hot on the heels of the school and college’s exceptional pantomime ‘Alice In Wonderland’, the school’s next project will be a summer-term showcase of an abridged version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, led by Miss Manning and the senior Theatre Company.