| Daniel Pirrie | Mai 2019 |

 

“Sir, my monkey tail has just split…and I don’t think I’m well enough to play a wolf too….”

The opening performance of the Lower First and First Form (Years 6 and 7) play The Jungle Book is upon us after months of work shopping and rehearsals. It is a matinee performance for four local primary schools and our Year 6 boys. All of a sudden I realise that this is actually the first time that we have had the whole cast together for about two weeks…

It is a long time since the audition rounds in October where over 90 boys auditioned. The company of actors and backstage crew – the youngest in the School – have been working furiously, up to three nights a week and most weekends in January. I can’t help cast my mind back to the decision to go against naturalistic costumes so we could focus on the actors’ physicalities. The backstage crew have made twenty tails for all the monkeys and it was, I like to think, a labour of love.

Back in those early days of rehearsals we spent a lot of time in our Drama Studio watching National Geographic documentaries and identifying different animal characteristics. The younger boys, transformed into monkeys, wolves, panthers, tigers and jackals would need to leave for their buses home at 5pm but the older ones rehearse until 6pm so as I walked the short distance from the Drama Studio to the Performing Arts Centre my mind shifted from the jungles of Asia to Birnam Wood and Invernesshire…

Our guest director, Shakespeare’s Globe and Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Keith Bartlett, is putting the company of the Upper School production of Macbeth through its paces. This will be performed in Big School in traverse on an imported grass battlefield and will also feature a nine-foot tall puppet operated by six of the actors as Hecate, the Queen of Witchcraft.

With up to six productions a year there is an emphasis on the ensemble: groups, or companies, working together to tell their stories. From Gogol’s Imperialist Russia in The Government Inspector to Golding’s desert island in Lord of the Flies it is not only time and space which constantly shift but also genres.

Backstage at The Jungle Book I find a spare tail and inform the boys that we will be one wolf down. The hours of preparation and endless reserves of enthusiasm mean they not only take this in their stride but see it as yet another opportunity to help each other out and make the show as excellent as their hard work deserves. It’s a pleasure to see so many young boys onstage performing consummately as well as the older boys from the School supporting them in the audience.

 

Daniel Pirrie
Director of Drama
Whitgift School