Lower School

7 March 2024

The Piano Player – annual playwriting competition

We were transported back to WWII for this year’s playwriting competition-winning piece, The Piano Player, as they discovered the history behind a little girl’s piano-playing neighbour.

Written and co-directed by Susannah (8K), The Piano Player follows the story of Lucy: a girl who lives in early 1940s London. After her school is bombed, Lucy has to stay at home in her family’s apartment where she meets her upstairs neighbour, Alyssa – a German woman in London, who decides to begin teaching Lucy to play the piano.

As the two spend more time together, Alyssa tells Lucy her story of fleeing Germany in 1933. Lucy learns about Alyssa’s family and the journey they had to take across Europe for Alyssa to start her new life in London.

Talking about the process behind The Piano Player, Susannah said: ‘Winning this year’s playwriting competition has been fantastic and has given me a real opportunity to write something substantial, fully developing my ideas and characters. The extract I had entered was something I believed in, despite being quite different to my original plan. I really appreciated the feedback Mrs Walker and the adjudicator gave me.

The Piano Player was influenced by the books I read both when I was younger, and while writing the play. A book that heavily shaped Alyssa’s story was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Other books that guided my ideas are Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, The Ministry of Unladylike Activity series by Robin Stevens, and The Skylarks War by Hilary McKay.

‘The audition process was quite scary, as I was worried that no one would turn up. I am so grateful to everyone who did, and they have all been amazing at their roles in this production. I am incredibly grateful to the whole cast for making their characters so three-dimensional. Every character has been developed by the actor, and I feel that the production is so much better for it, as everyone has added so many amazing details that make the characters so much more real.

‘This play really means a lot to me, and I hope everyone who saw it enjoyed watching it just as much as I loved creating it!’

Our annual Playwriting Competition encourages Years 7-9 students to draft and submit original pieces that are shortlisted for a special student-led production. Once selected, the winning entry is staged as a lunchtime performance for students, parents and staff to enjoy. In 2023 the winning playwriting competition production was Jazz Junction, written by a student in Year 9.

Find out more about drama at St Helen’s.


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