Drama students perform extracts from Chekhov’s The Seagull

London A69

AS Drama students have been working to hone their acting skills this term and as part of their efforts, they performed extracts from Chekhov’s The Seagull for an audience in the theatre for the first time at the start of November. This gave the group an opportunity to put into practice the techniques they have been learning as well as becoming accustomed to being on stage and in front of an audience. The performances were very impressive. At the end the students received feedback and shared their own ideas about what they had learned.

An A2 Drama student who had come to watch the performance had a lot of positive comments for the group. She noted that the audience could ‘see’ the characters’ new thoughts forming through the actors’ use of pauses in dialogue and that the changing tone and tempo of the scenes made the performance interesting and dynamic. She also commented that sometimes it was possible to observe the inner life of the character even when the performers were not speaking, which was an accolade to their hard work and accomplishments in such a short time.

MPW’s AS Drama teacher, Lucy, pointed out that students can learn a lot from each other and with that in mind they shared some of the things they had picked up through working together and rehearsing. It was very interesting listening to the students share their thoughts and to hear how they have been inspired by their classmates. One student noted how focussed his scene partner was and how he strives towards that motivation. Another was grateful for her partner’s knowledge of the script, enabling him to help her and ensure the performance continued smoothly when she struggled with her lines. As an audience member, I had not noticed that she did stumble on her lines so evidently this was very valuable. Lucy expanded on this point to emphasise the importance of teamwork and that line learning is a two-way process: a responsibility both to yourself as an actor but also to your partner who needs your help to make the scene a success.

Other observations focussed on understanding your character: researching exactly who they are and understanding them in a wider sense than the one scene being performed to enable the performance to go a little deeper. One student planned to learn more about his character’s objectives and purpose before performing. He also praised the way that his partner showed the audience something natural and realistic through her physical presence on stage; she was uninhibited enough to be able to touch his arm affectionately and in a familiar way, helping the illusion that they were a couple when off-stage the pair would not interact like this. Another student reinforced this idea and noted that overcoming boundaries is essential in performance and commending the way that physical openness can change a scene.

Taking time over a performance was also mentioned. One student explained that the impact of a scene is more meaningful if an actor pauses for a thought change. Lucy expanded upon this notion to suggest that the moment before and after a line are just as important in the performance as the line’s delivery itself.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the AS students’ performance and thought it showed an exciting promise of things to come as they progress through the course, perfecting their Stanslavski techniques and working towards their exam piece.

Jo Carter