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Performance Drama

Performance Drama

The Drama programme offered at The Leys is rich, varied and inclusive. Drama is highly valued and there are opportunities for every year group to be involved in a production during the school year. We are also very fortunate to have a close relationship with the Charing Cross Theatre in London, and every other year a group of Upper School pupils are able to spend a week there, learning about all aspects of professional theatre.

Our resident Director of Performance Drama brings a wealth of professional acting and directing experience to the department and is able to concentrate on specific aspects of performance and theatre, and she is supported by our full time Theatre Manager and two professional technicians. Individual support is also available from the Director of Performance Drama for any pupils wishing to audition for National Youth Theatre, National Youth Music Theatre and Drama School entry, and we also run a Year 9 Drama club and Theatre Craft sessions (Backstage Theatre Company).

For those pupils passionate about performing, as well as those who are interested in lighting, sound and other backstage elements of theatre, there is the opportunity to audition for a Drama Scholarship. The Scholarships are offered at entry to Y9 and Y12, and there is a yearly Scholars’ Showcase performance in which Scholars of all ages come together to showcase their work. The Director of Performance Drama mentors the Drama Scholars, guiding them in all aspects and skills of performance both on and off stage.

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) lessons are offered, with many pupils benefitting from our excellent LAMDA teachers and achieving outstanding results in examinations. LAMDA has a renowned reputation within the theatrical industry and in addition to the Wider Curriculum drama here at the Leys, gives pupils confidence both in and outside of the classroom.

Performance Drama is thriving at The Leys and we believe that it enriches pupils not only from a performance perspective, but also gives them a rounded philosophy and skills that are invaluable in all aspects of life.

Theatre Productions

Each year sees a diverse and exciting range of drama performed by the school, including popular classics, contemporary and challenging works, large-scale West End musicals, and plays for young people.

In the Autumn Term, there are usually two senior productions, one of which is often a musical; the other often a smaller, experimental piece of drama. The Lent Term features a major production for Year 10. The Summer Term is packed with productions for Year 9, Year 7/8 and finally, Summer Cabaret, which ends the year with a celebration of drama, music and dance.

Auditions for school productions are open to all the respective pupils, not just those studying drama in the classroom. Productions are an ideal opportunity to develop confidence, communication and team-working skills, alongside creative, technical and performing skills. Pupils regularly gain places at the National Youth Theatre and Youth Musical Theatre, and several pupils have gone on to foundation or full courses at well-known theatre schools.

School productions are directed by our own staff, and supported by the pupil backstage crew alongside the in-house theatre staff. The department is run by our Director of Performance Drama, Mrs. Cory Pulman-Jones, who brings a wealth of professional acting and directing experience to The Leys.

We have an active Drama Scholarship programme, with regular workshops, trips and other enrichment opportunities, plus an annual Scholars’ Showcase. The Scholars also perform regularly at school assembly.

Individual LAMDA speech and drama lessons are also offered at The Leys, in which pupils often achieve grades to a very high standard in acting, musical theatre or public speaking.

Outstanding Facilities and Resources

Great Hall was opened in 2013, built as a multi-purpose theatre for drama productions, lectures, presentations and musical performances. It was designed to operate as a professional-standard ‘teaching theatre’, enabling pupils to be involved in all aspects of production from acting to backstage crew.

The first class facilities include:

  • Tiered seating for an audience of up to 337, retractable for up to 600
  • High-level lighting and scenery facilities above the stage and auditorium
  • Motorised flying system
  • Computerised sound and lighting controls
  • A scenery workshop
  • Dressing rooms and a green room

On the first floor the Middleton Drama Studio provides a flexible rehearsal space with ‘black box’ theatre for smaller productions and exam performances.

The Drama Department is located within the John Harding Drama Centre, comprising two spacious and flexible classrooms and a rehearsal room.

The top floor houses the Dance Studio, a bright, professional-standard space, ideal for dance rehearsals for the school’s fantastic theatre productions.

Drama Club

This popular club runs weekly during activity time by the Director of Performance Drama. The main focus is on drama games and improvisation. The emphasis is on having fun, while at the same time developing confidence and team skills. Props, costumes and starter lines help to stimulate improvisation work, which is shared in a supportive way with the rest of the group. The club is ideal for those considering taking Drama at GCSE, as well as those who may prefer to participate away from the classroom.

The Backstage Company

The Backstage Company is open to all years of the school (Y9-U6, plus Year 7/8 for their production). The group meets once a week to help prepare for shows and gain an insight into the “other side” of theatre. The Company provides a relaxed and fun atmosphere in which to develop confidence, communication, team-working skills and the theatre craft.

The Company is involved with all aspects of backstage theatre, including lighting, sound, set construction, costume, make-up and hair. All the groups work together on school productions.

Over the years The Leys has encouraged many pupils to pursue theatrical interests at university or as a serious career option. The activity has its roots back when the School’s theatre facilities existed in what is now Dale boarding house, when it was known as Stage Club, before moving to the 1960s theatre and now in Great Hall. Former members have gone onto careers as Production Managers, Producers for TV, film and theatre, Lighting Designers and Directors.

Under the direction of our in-house professional technicians and staff, the Company are responsible for providing all the technical and backstage support for the productions and events in the theatre and elsewhere. This can involve all aspects of work behind-the-scenes including lighting, sound, stage management, scenic design, construction, painting, props, costume, etc. During the Lent term, the pupils also work on a Design Challenge to create a complete conceptual design for a performance, which is presented in teams to a panel of judges.

Great Hall has extensive professional facilities, designed specifically to maximise pupil involvement backstage.

Recent Productions

John Johnson - Director of Drama and Theatre

John Johnson joins The Leys as Director of Drama and Theatre from Seaford College where he has been Head of Drama and Media Studies. Previous to this he worked as Director of Drama at Christ’s Hospital school and as Head of Creative Arts at Christ’s College Brecon. He is currently a Team Leader for practical examining and theory moderating for units at both GCSE Drama and A Level Drama and Theatre.

John is a current reviewer for The British Theatre Guide and has had theatre reviews published in The Independent Newspaper as well as local publications such as The Newham Recorder. He has written various Digital Theatre Online Education Packs and is a regular contributor to Drama and Theatre Magazine.

As an actor John toured Italy with Il Palchetto Stage, the U.K. with The National Trust Theatre company and created his own work at The Edinburgh Festival with Minus One Theatre Company. He has worked on TV shows such as Crimewatch, Casualty and The Bill, and was also part of the London Short Film Festival, taking a leading role in ‘Out of Time.’ Most recently, John has acted with The Willow Globe Theatre Company in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and with Open Stage on ‘The Three Sisters’, ‘Hecuba’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost.’

Cory Pulman-Jones - Director of Performance Drama

Cory Pulman-Jones (professional acting name Cory Pulman) was an actor for twenty-five years before she began teaching and directing. She comes from a theatrical family. Her father was writer Jack Pulman (Adaptor of I Claudius for the BBC), her mother is actress Barbara Young, and her sister Liza Pulman is the Soprano member of the satirical cabaret group ‘Fascinating Aida’.

Among her many professional appearances in theatre, television and radio, Cory has been seen on television in Coronation Street (Mandy Whitworth), Midsummer Murders (Badgers Drift), Jackson Pace (The Great Years), Dr Who (The Curse of Fenric) and Robin of Sherwood (The Pretender). She has had a range of experience in the theatre, including playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the York Theatre Royal, and Mercy Lewis/Mary Warren in the 1991 production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Royal National Theatre.

Before joining The Leys, she was Actress in Residence at Impington Village College for three years until 2015 where she directed extensively. She has had successful experience in coaching pupils for drama school entry and National Youth Theatre applications.

Some of Cory’s productions at The Leys include: A Christmas Carol, The Sound of Music, Amadeus and Little Women the Musical.

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