Spotlight On: UCS Hampstead’s drama partnerships

Posted on: 29 Nov 2022
Posted by: Sophie Bennett

Sophie Bennett, assistant head (partnerships and public relations) at UCS Hampstead, explains how drama has recently taken centre stage in the school’s partnership provision.

With the school’s theatre once again full with real-life, in-person audiences (hooray!) throughout the 2021-22 academic year, this aspect of partnership provision grew rapidly under the stewardship of Connor Abbott, the then performing arts subject partnerships coordinator at UCS. Mr Abbott directed the Senior School production of The Illusion and arranged with the London Academy of Excellence, Stratford (LAE) for a number of their pupils to attend one of the shows and for them to write reviews. Working with the co-curricular manager at LAE, Fran Bedding, this joint initiative was targeted towards pupils with an interest in journalism or the arts. The fantastic reviews were published in the UCS termly newsletter and an extract is below:

“This very engaging and dramatic play was brought to life by an impressive set design – mirrors in the walls created mystery and could shift upwards and downwards to let people into the visions and out of the scenes. Brilliant lighting was used throughout the visions, as yellow/white light symbolised the action, while the light abruptly switched to purple whenever the father intervened in the illusions. The play ends dramatically, leaving room for the audience to question what is reality and what is an illusion. It is a phenomenal play, acted superbly with efficient support from the stage crew.”
- Harry, a Year 12 pupil at LAE, Stratford.

Mr Abbott continued to collaborate with LAE, Stratford in the spring term, visiting to deliver two four-week programmes of oracy workshops to Year 12 pupils. These practical workshops were designed to be friendly, informative and confidence-building. Pupils also focused on strategies to improve interview technique for university applications. By the end of the oracy programme, the development in the pupils’ confidence was palpable.

“Many of our students struggle to find their voice and lack confidence, so to have these new sessions on offer has made an incredible difference. In total, 20 students were lucky enough to have sessions this year. Despite participating for only four weeks, it has been amazing to see these students now confidently speaking out in academic lessons and preparing for university interviews with more belief in themselves and a louder voice.
- Fran Bedding, co-curricular manager at LAE, Stratford.

The UCS Lower School production of Peter Pan in the summer term was attended by pupils from Fitzjohn’s Primary School. These pupils returned to UCS a week after the show for a workshop on their own upcoming production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The workshop was also attended by three Lower School pupils from the cast of Peter Pan: Freddie, Sam and Sahil. These three boys helped to facilitate the workshop and quickly formed excellent relationships with the Fitzjohn’s children, demonstrating the very best practice as Lower School drama pupils. The workshop was a joyous event for all involved; the primary school pupils really threw themselves into the variety of games and exercises that improved their physicality, ensemble skills and understanding of staging.

“Working with the Fitzjohn’s class, I was able to help out the younger pupils in groups to develop their drama skills as well as my own. This was all achieved in some really fun drama-based activities. All the pupils were really willing to learn and had a great time working with UCS.”
- Freddie, a Year 7 pupil at UCS.

About Sophie Bennett

Sophie Bennett is assistant head (partnerships and public relations) at University College School, Hampstead.