The Musical Theatre genre, as part of the Performing Arts Department, at St. David’s College has gone from strength to strength over the past 14 years, as we see many of our pupils, not just those who have been identified as MAT, participating in our annual school musical productions. This has also seen a move from being performed in the school assembly hall to the professional stage, with performances having taken place at both Theatre Colwyn and The Arena in Venue Cymru Llandudno over the last five years.
A wide variety of productions have been produced in this time, from ever popular school choice musicals such as Grease, Oliver and Bugsy Malone to shows; such as Hairspray, The Wiz and We Will Rock You. For our 2018 production, we were privileged to be able to perform the Welsh premiere production of The Battle of Boat. This show is an original musical by composer Ethan Lewis Maltby and lyricist Jenna Donnelly, commissioned for the National Youth Music Theatre. It was a heart-warming, funny, emotional and exciting, as well as challenging, musical, and we all had the best experience bringing it to life on the stage. A befitting piece to have been performed in 2018, in recognition of the centenary of the end of WW1.
The standard and expectations set are high, and this provides an excellent opportunity for those taking BTEC Performing Arts in Musical Theatre to reach the highest grades possible, with many of our past pupils achieving Distinctions and Distinction* at Level 2&3.
This has seen our pupils going on to pursue their dreams of studying Musical Theatre at prestigious colleges in London. Molly Jenkins has now completed her second year at Trinity Laban, Emma Mulvihill completed a year's foundation course at Bird College and has since gone on to further her studies at Performance Preparation Academy, and Alexander Ringo is at RADA studying Technical Theatre.
Links with Performing Arts groups outside of school have also been forged, along with the school becoming members of NODA (National Operatic & Dramatic Association), helping to push all pupils with a keen interest in Performing Arts.
Year 11 student, Josh Davies, was encouraged to audition for the role of Dandy Dan in our production of Bugsy Malone when he was in Year 8; he’d never really thought about taking part and didn’t think that he could sing. Two years later, having played the part of Corny Collins (Hairspray) and Gripper (The Battle of Boat), Josh gave an outstanding performance as PT Barnum at Venue Cymru Llandudno last July 2018, as part of the production Barnum by LYMT (Llandudno Youth Music Theatre). This role saw him master the skill of tightrope walking, whilst singing, and with his performance, he went on to win the NODA (National Operatic & Dramatic Association) award for Best Youth Performer 2018. Josh, along with other St. David’s pupils, had been working on LYMT’s next production, Oklahoma! He played the role of Will Parker, learning to tap dance and lasso.
On the acting front, Year 12 student, Henry Thompson, is a member of NYT and we have also had students over the years successfully audition to work with professional touring companies performing at Venue Cymru, such as Trystan Ashley and Jack Williams performing in Daldry’s award winning production of An Inspector Calls. Current Year 13 pupil, Lawrence Newman is on the West End stage and Year 11 student, Aaron Spencer is in the professional field of filming for television adverts.
Since 2006, LAMDA examinations have played a big part in the Performing Arts Department’s development of students’ performance skills. These accredited examinations have helped all those who take them, as part of their extra-curricular studies here at St. David’s College, flourish not only as performers but also with their self-discipline, confidence and communication, and so developing invaluable life-long skills. Participation in these is integral to the development of our Performing Arts students for both acting and musical theatre. We have just received the results for our most recent exam session, which saw another 100% pass rate, with 8 Distinctions and 5 Merits being awarded, including the highest mark ever received by an SDC pupil of 98/100!
Regular provision of theatre trips and workshops locally and further afield, to locations; such as London and New York have enabled our pupils to participate in Performing Arts classes run by professional performers from the West End and Broadway, as well as experience live theatre performances. Our last trip took us to London and included a West Workshop at Pineapple Dance Studio run by a fantastic cast member from Aladdin. Our students have also had the opportunity of experiencing a stage fighting workshop run by the talented Kaitlin Howard, held at school.
Our annual inter House Panto/Play competition provides an excellent opportunity for the students to put not only their performance skills into practice but also their management, production, directing, designing skills to the test too. The competition involves the students having to take complete control over the production of a short-scripted pantomime, some years these are rhyming scripts adding in an extra challenge! They are given approximately 4-5 weeks to lift the script from page to stage. The senior students of each competitive house are responsible for the management and coordinating of their production, organising budgets, planning rehearsal schedules, and directing. This event, however, is a real team effort where almost all members of each competitive house get involved with their production, regardless of whether they study Performing Arts BTEC Level 2 or 3, fulfilling roles from performing, set, costume & programme designers to back stage crew and lighting & sound technicians. They are responsible for all aspects of the production, developing life-long skills; such as team work, planning and communication, as they do so.
Our latest venture for the department is participating in the ISA Shakespeare Monologue competition and The Chester Festival of Performing Arts 2020.