8 September 2013

There is Nothing Quite Like the Prep-School Play - The Spectator Sept 2013

Ysenda Maxtone Graham uncovers the secrets of a storming prep-school play

An Extract From the Spectator's Independent Schools supplement -           7 September 2013

But don’t write off history masters as playwrights entirely. Among the prep schools of England you still find some self-effacing geniuses who change children’s lives by their brilliance. One such is Adrian Boote, inspiring history master at Hanford School for girls in Dorset, writer of spot-on school reports, and married to the headmistress of Bryanston. He writes the fabulous last-day-of-summer-term plays for Hanford, performed on the lawn beyond the hockey pitch, basing them on classics (Cinderella, Odysseus and the Pied Piper) but bringing in references to Miranda, Downton Abbey, William and Kate, and The Apprentice. Adrian Boote’s own ‘don’ts’ are as follows:

‘Remember that it’s not for you, it’s for the children and their parents. Let the pupils “own” it if they can. The more you can incorporate their ideas, the better. Don’t force the play to turn out the way you saw it in your head. It’s bound to take on a life of its own. Don’t have too much action: too much fighting, too much running, too much keeling over and dying. Focus on costume and dialogue, not on props and scenery. Keep it moving. Don’t expect all the pupils to love their part; but try not to let them swap too much, as with 40 or 50 one-line parts this could turn into a nightmare. Don’t expect every lovingly crafted line to hit the mark. All too often, the girls (over-keen for their moment) will speak their line while the laughter for the previous line is still going on, drowning out the sound. If you get a two-thirds strike rate, you’re doing well.’

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