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St Mary’s students take drama to the airwaves

Restrictions on performing arts events haven’t halted work within St Mary’s (@StMarysSch) Drama department, where students have imaginatively adapted their skills and taken to the airwaves as a way of keeping connected and creative. At the start of September, the team unveiled a radio play called Bookcase, which was recorded at the end of the 2020/21 academic year.

Following a year where their ability to perform was kerbed, St Mary’s Year 10 students decided to set up a new recording studio at St Mary’s School in order to create a socially distanced audio play. Students embraced the challenge of moving a production ‘on air’ – relying solely on their vocal skills to bring characters to life. Together the girls learnt new dramatic techniques – experimenting with developing characters through the use of different accents, pitch, diction, modulation and clarity.

Bookcase was written by Rob John, who has scripted more than twenty plays for the stage, as well as a number of successful plays for BBC Radio 4. He also writes original dramatisations and story adaptations for BBC Schools Education. The play was first performed back in 1996 by The Far East Theatre Company – with Esther Roberts, now St Mary’s Head of Drama, starring as Eleanor, the main character.

Commenting, Esther said:

“I remember feeling really excited to be originally involved in this production back in 1996. Rob directed the play and was still writing the script as we began rehearsals. As cast members, we were eager to read the next scene and it was thrilling to discover how it would all end. The play immediately sprung to mind for me when we were trying to decide which play to perform as a radio production. The girls all had enormous fun developing the wide range of characters and we are delighted with the outcome.” 

St Mary’s School Speech and Drama teacher, Kate Weber, said:

“All of the students brought such energy to this project and hugely enjoyed experiencing a new dramatic and creative process. It has been a collaborative effort and one which staff and students alike have fully embraced. Changing rules, regulations and guidance have forced us all to think outside of the box and work differently over the past year. This project proves that this can be a good thing – encouraging us to embrace new mediums and push the boundaries of what we are used to. A huge well done to the team. It was such a delight to be able to perform again and we will most certainly be filling the airwaves with more performances this year!”

Bookcase tells the story of Eleanor, a teenage girl who is beginning to withdraw from the outside world; things at home with her Stepdad, Dennis, are strained and her own father seems to have disappeared. She stops going to school and instead finds escapism in fiction books. She’ll read anything from detective stories to love stories – anything to distract her. But when fiction merges with real life and the characters from the books begin to interact with her in her own room, things get complicated, confusing and most worryingly, dangerous… 

The audio play is available to listen to here.


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