The Drama Department is a hub of creative activity at St Helen’s, and drama is an extremely popular subject both within and outside the classroom.
We offer a diverse range of theatrical opportunities beyond the curriculum and enjoy a reputation for creating dynamic, high-quality productions. Outside of the classroom, students perform in productions covering a range of genres, styles and periods and are able to participate in a wide variety of roles as actors, writers, designers, technicians and directors.
Curriculum drama is taught throughout the school, with a strong uptake at both GCSE and A level. The Drama Department is staffed by specialist teachers, who enjoy fostering students’ skills in theatre and performance. Drama studies are supported by our professionally trained theatre technician and drama assistant, who contribute to the teaching of theatre design elements. Students are supported to develop independence and an extremely high level of ability, often producing outstanding performance work and showcasing the talents of students both onstage and behind the scenes. Students develop their learning within our dedicated performance spaces, with lessons taking place in our Studio Theatre, Yolande Paterson Hall and Performing Arts Studio.
Within the classroom, students learn confidence and collaboration whilst their intellectual ability to analyse and evaluate different theatre techniques and practitioners is developed. This is complemented by a focus throughout the curriculum on building practical performance skills, and understanding the importance of theatre as a means of exploring challenging issues. We aim to foster an atmosphere of challenge and fun, above all developing students’ abilities as strong and articulate communicators.
9–7 at GCSE 2023
9–8 at GCSE 2023
A*–B at A level 2023
The study of drama within lessons is supported by regular opportunities to watch dynamic and exciting professional productions outside of school. With regular trips to watch productions at the Oxford Playhouse, London Theatres, Bristol Old Vic and the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, students enjoy watching a wide range of theatre. Live Theatre forms a key part of the GCSE and A level courses and students review the productions they have watched, learning about both performance and theatre design elements. We also enjoy welcoming professional touring theatre companies to perform within our Studio Theatre at St Helen’s.
Recent theatre trips have included: The Crucible, The Boy With Two Hearts, Brief Encounter, Wuthering Heights, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Six, An Inspector Calls, Broke, The Life of Pi, and A Mini Summer Night’s Dream, as well as visiting productions of The Sleeping Sword and Jane Eyre.
In addition to theatre trips, we have the opportunity to watch a large catalogue of theatre productions online, along with reading a wide range of play texts to further students’ learning. Our academic curriculum is enhanced by workshops led by visiting theatre companies and industry professionals. Most recently students enjoyed a physical theatre workshop learning the techniques of Frantic Assembly. The study of the core set text at GCSE is enriched by a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London where students are able to tread the boards of the theatre themselves before watching a recording of the original production and exploring the original costume, set and lighting designs.
Students enjoy a wide range of enrichment experiences, which vary each academic year, and these are always designed to enhance student learning. Offering access to the inspiring work of professional theatre makers gives our students the opportunity to apply their enhanced learning to their own work, inspiring them to achieve their very best both within and outside the classroom.
Extracurricular drama is a thriving part of school life. The Drama Department offers a diverse range of theatrical opportunities beyond the curriculum and enjoys a reputation for creating dynamic, high-quality productions. Students enjoy developing their skills, getting to know new people and a sense of accomplishment at being part of a large-scale creative project. We aim to provide a broad range of productions each year, with opportunities for every year group and many productions having a cast size of over 40 students. All of our productions are supported by student-led backstage teams, who are able to take on a range of roles from stage manager to assistant director, all adding to the exciting creative buzz.
The annual Playwriting Competition is a key event for Years 7–9, offering students the opportunity to enter their own original scripts for performance. We offer weekly drama clubs for all age groups, including performance and acting skills and also a specialist technical theatre club, exploring all elements of stage management and design.
Students have recently enjoyed the opportunity to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with an original production run jointly with Abingdon School. St Helen’s drama students have also enjoyed much recent success at auditions for the National Youth Theatre, National Youth Music Theatre, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Oxford School of Drama and Rose Bruford College.
Take a look at our Beyond page to find out more.