Drama plays a huge part in life at St Catherine’s, both on the timetable and as a very popular extra-curricular activity. We believe that the study of Drama enhances students' ability to empathise as well as communicate with their peers. Whilst collaborating on group productions, whether as part of academic study or during extra curricular clubs, they learn to work effectively in a team and bring to life their own creative concepts.
Middle School Drama lessons from U3 to U4, GCSE Drama and A Level Theatre Studies as examination choices, LAMDA Speech and Drama as an extra-curricular option, an annual House Drama competition that everyone is involved in and Middle and Senior School productions. There is something for absolutely everyone!
Mrs Laura Grizzelle-Lang: Director of Drama
Laura has worked at St Catherine’s since 2008. She completed her Drama Degree at Royal Holloway University of London, where she developed a keen interest in Directing, Greek Tragedy and Applied Drama. After this she began to pursue Drama in community contexts undertaking modules in Drama Therapy and conducted research at St Peter’s Hospital, Surrey on the role of Drama as a tool to aid recovery from childhood illnesses. After University she spent 2 years working with local youth theatre companies and finally trained to be a Drama teacher at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. During training she taught in both the State and Independent Sector. Since joining St Catherine’s she has directed both Senior School and Middle School Productions including Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Arabian Nights and The Sound of Music. She set up the highly successful 6th form theatre group PULSE and led their venture to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, from which they returned with a glowing 4* review for their production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Ash Girl. Since returning from maternity leave in 2018 Laura has lead the department as Director of Drama, and is currently directing the Senior School Production.
Miss Tansy Parkinson, Director and Producer in Residence
Tansy joined the St Catherine’s team in 2017 as the Director and Producer in residence, alongside teaching Drama. She studied Theatre and Performance studies at Warwick, before coming to the school. Her interests in theatre include theatre and social abjection, exilic theatre, Greek theatre and African theatre. She has always had a love for directing, having directed The Seven Stages of Grieving, The Great British Revue off, Just Words and Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular for the Warwick Arts centre in the past. Since coming to the school, Tansy has co-directed the middle school production of The Wind in the Willow’s (2017) and the Senior School production of The Crucible (2018) and was the lead director for the Whole School Production of Sister Act (2018). Tansy also pursues her directing career outside of the school having assistant directed ‘The Edit’ (Salisbury Playhouse, 2018) and Skin in the Game (Old Red Lion Theatre, 2019) during her holidays, alongside working as an Educational Practitioner and associate for companies such as Folio Theatre and 4Worlds Theatre Company.
Mr Nathan Allenby
Nathan joined St Catherine’s Drama department in 2022. Following his graduation from East 15 Acting School in 2012, Nathan worked as a performer in a number of projects ranging from theatre-in-education to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Nathan also worked as a freelance creative across a range of community-driven ventures and specialised workshops such as puppetry, circus and clowning. At the core of his work, Nathan has sought to encourage one’s dramatic and creative skills. This is an ethos that ultimately led him to complete his PGCE in Secondary Drama with the University of Sussex. In addition to teaching Drama in the Senior School, Nathan also teaches Speech & Drama classes in preparation for LAMDA examinations and assists with school productions. His favourite play is ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’.
Mrs Jessica Wittert van Hoogland, Head of Prep School Drama
Jess’ career at St Catherine’s began in January 2013, as a Senior School Drama teacher and she has since worked in a variety of roles; most notably as Head of Prep School Drama and LIII Class Teacher. She studied Drama and History of Art, Architecture and Design at Kingston University and went on to complete her PGCE in Secondary Drama at Goldsmiths University London; where she was awarded recognition for her excellence in teaching. During her studies she specialised in physical theatre and particularly enjoyed Commedia d’ell arte, which she also pursued through courses at the University of Avignon and The Actors’ Space, Spain. After University, she engaged with a variety of roles, such as stage manager and actor for fringe theatre pieces; as well as supporting adults and children with learning difficulties in projects like The Globe’s Education Outreach Program – ‘Our Theatre’ and ‘Opera Week’, a combined project with the Orpheus Centre and the Royal Opera House. During her time at St Catherine’s she has relished her directing opportunities and directed plays such as the Middle School’s Production of ‘The Tempest’ (co directed with Mrs McLean); ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’; ‘The Witches’; ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’; ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’; and most recently ‘James and the Giant Peach’. Jess is delighted to be teaching Drama across both the Prep and Senior School.
Mrs Katie Solly
In charge of LAMDA examination classes. Katie studied French and Drama at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London University and went on to train at Guildford School of Acting. She has worked professionally as an actress and ran her own youth theatre for 15 years where she both directed and taught. Before teaching the Middle School and running Speech and Drama in the senior school at St Catherine’s she taught at Bedales and privately. She loves to act when she can and has performed regularly in the Petersfield Shakespeare Festival as well as being their Education Practitioner.
Drama GCSE and Theatre Studies A Level students enjoy a number of theatre visits as part of their courses. Recent and imminent visits include:
- Frantic Assembly’s The Unreturning
- Les Enfants Terribles The Trench
- Marie Jones' Stones in His Pockets
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time
- Frantic Assembly’s Things I know to be True
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
- Maggie Bain’s Man to Man.
Examination Board: AQA
Why study Drama & Theatre Studies?
Drama and Theatre Studies is a fascinating subject for anyone with a genuine interest in theatre and is not just for students who want to take up the Performing Arts as a career. The course involves practical performance and/or design work, the study of set texts and practitioners, and the analysis of contemporary productions. Going to the theatre is therefore, an essential part of the course and that is a definite plus! It is a highly respected academic subject (past students have gone on to study at Oxbridge and other reputable universities) and it combines well with a wide range of other subjects at A Level.
A Level: You will rehearse and perform sections of text from three different plays, one of which will be performed to an audience, whilst keeping a portfolio of your research and performance development. You will also study two set plays and see a minimum of five productions at the theatre, learning how to analyse the production and performance techniques employed on stage.
Finally, you will create a devised performance, influenced by the work of your chosen practitioner, and produce an accompanying notebook to reflect upon the process.
The written exam at the end of the two years will comprise of Live Theatre analysis and questions on your two set texts.
- 3 hour written paper on two set plays and their potential for performance as well as a question on the work of theatre makers in a single live theatre production - 40%
- A practical group project (Devised group piece) + working notebook (coursework) and the performance of three scripted pieces + working notebook (coursework) – 60%
- 60% Practical Assessment and Coursework
- 40% Written Examination
GCSE Drama is a challenging, intellectual, practical, energetic and fun option that will help develop your confidence, communication and creativity in a stimulating, supportive environment. Over the two year course pupils will explore issues and ideas through the language of drama and the study of play texts, alongside developing a complete range of practical and technical skills in acting, directing and theatrical design. The ability to work well within a group is an essential element of this highly practical subject. Assessment is based on both practical and written aspects. Visits to the theatre (normally three per academic year) are integral to the course and are chargeable, typically around £35 per trip.
Candidates are required to present practical work for two components which must include both scripted and unscripted work. These are group projects, although students are awarded individual marks.
Component 1: Understanding Drama
1hr 45mins: 40% of GCSE - externally set and marked.
The written paper comprises of three sections:
- A – Multiple choice
- B – Four questions on a given extract from the set play
- C – One question (from a choice) on the work of theatre makers in a single live theatre production.
Component 2: Devising
40% of GCSE - Internally marked and externally moderated
Assessment is on:
- Process of creating devised drama.
- Performance of devised drama (students may contribute as a performer or designer).
- Analysis and evaluation of own work in the form of a Devising Log.
Component 3: Texts in Practice
20% of GCSE - Externally assessed
Performance of two extracts from one play (students may contribute as a performer or designer). Free choice of play but it must contrast with the set play chosen for Component 1.
Physical theatre & Characterisation - Darkwood Manor
In this project the U3 learn about physical theatre and how this can be used to create scenery and props as well as using symbolic movement to convey emotion and mood. Through extensive use of teacher in-role and improvisation the girls work towards producing a piece of theatre that includes rehearsed characterisations and ensemble movement. An emphasis is placed on collaboration; learning to work together to generate creative ideas and compromise where necessary.
By the end of the module students should be able to:
- Create a realistic character with depth, using and understanding recognised techniques such as hot-seating.
- Understand the function of Whole Group Drama and Teacher in-Role
- Consider the role of atmosphere, and the use of physical theatre to construct drama.
Masks in Theatre
This project is aimed at introducing the girls to mask work and how the body can be used to convey status and relationships. Through the study of Commedia dell’arte, Greek Theatre, Noh Theatre and Carnival the girls work towards producing performances that incorporate stylised characterisations and differing states of tension.
By the end of the module students should be able to:
- Use ‘The Look’ to gain the audience’s attention
- Manipulate their bodies to demonstrate character status and personality using ‘The Pull’ and ‘Centres of Personality’
- Work in collaboration with peers to produce a short comic performance combining these factors.
Bertolt Brecht & non-naturalistic theatre techniques
This scheme of work is designed to introduce students to non-naturalistic theatre. It also aims to make students think about their aims for the audience when creating performances. The girls use theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht as way to explore non-naturalistic theatre that makes the audience think. They will then apply these techniques to one of the Grimm Tales, aiming to make the audience think and understand the moral of the story in a clear and creative way. They will finish the rotation by using current headlines as stimuli to devise pieces with a clear message for the audience.
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Understand the aims and techniques used in Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre.
- Understand and apply these non-naturalistic techniques to their own pieces whether script based or devised.
- Decide on and achieve their group and personal aims for the audience.
- Analyse the potential to influence audience through Non-naturalistic techniques.
Improvising & Devising
This module focuses on teaching the girls basic improvisational skill and refining their devising skills. They begin by learning the basis of good improvisation and stagecraft, including how to use different staging configurations. They then go onto a longer process in which they have a piece that they work on, each week focusing on a different aspect such as their use of pace, pause and how to successfully create mood and atmosphere. This should allow them to experience what GCSE Drama is like and hone their devising skills.
By the end of the module, the students should be able to:
- Recognise different staging configurations and understand how they can be used effectively.
- Improvise, perform and sustain a character with clear status using levels and proxemics.
- Work as part of a team to support each other in improvisation.
- Devise with confidence, considering how to use pace, pause and music to create atmosphere and tension.
- To be able to evaluate and analyse how successfully they achieved their artistic aims for the audience.
Lord of the Flies
This scheme is designed to prepare students for the requirements of GCSE text-based work. The content will include the process of analysing characters, relationships and status.
By the end of the year, the students should be able to:
- Develop three dimensional characterisations.
- Stage scenes to build suspense and demonstrate shifting status.
- Design costume, scenery, lighting and sound to create an appropriate mood or setting.
- Evaluate the success of their performances in relation to their group’s aim and intentions.
Advanced level Theatre Studies
The books in this list are not to be regarded as prescribed reading; the list is intended to indicate where material may be found which with topics in the syllabus.
- E. Bentley: The Theory of the Modern stage (Penguin)
- E. Braun: The Director and the Stage (Methuen)
- S.Mitter: Systems of Rehearsal: Stanislavski (Brecht)
- J.L.Styan: Modern Drama in Theory & Practice
- Volume 1: Realism and Naturalism
- Volume 2: Symbolism, Surrealism and the Absurd
- Volume 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre (Cambridge Uni. Press)
- J.Benedetti Stanislavski: An introduction (Methuen)
- C. Stanislavski: Actor’s Handbook: An Alphabetical arrangement of Concise Statements on Aspects of Acting (Methuen)
- C. Stanislavski: An Actor prepares Methuen
- C. Stanislavski: Building a character
- B.Brecht: Poems & Songs
From the Plays Methuen
- Thompson & Sacks: Cambridge Companion to Brecht (Cambridge Uni. Press)
- J.Willett: The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht (Methuen)
- E.Aston: An Introduction to Feminism and Theatre (Routledge)
- L.Goodman: Contemporary Feminist Theatres: To each her own (Routledge)
- J.R. Green: Theatre in Ancient Greek Society (Routledge)
- J.McFarlane: Cambridge Companion to Ibsen (Cambridge Uni. Press)
- E. Tomqvist: A Doll’s House- Plays in Production (Cambridge Uni. Press)
- Sophocles: Antigone (Bloomsbury)
- Tennessee Williams: The Glass Menagerie (Penguin)
- Arthur Miller: The Crucible (Bloomsbury)