Successful Year for Drama St Mary’s
It was a busy and successful year for Drama at St Mary’s University, Twickenham in 2017 with numerous productions and festivals taking place, the dawn of a new undergraduate degree, students receiving critical acclaim for performances and much more.
In April, Senior Lecturer Matthew Hahn, who has just been awarded an Arts & Humanities Research Council grant for theatrical interventions around air pollution in Kenya, launched his play The Robben Island Shakespeare, which was published by Bloomsbury Methuen, at the South African High Commission.
May saw two productions as second-year Theatre Arts students performed William Shakespeare’s Macbeth to a number of local schools while students on the BA Drama and Applied Theatre programme teamed up with Balance, a Community Interest Company who work with vulnerable adults to create a production based around the themes of hopes, dreams and ambitions.
St Mary’s took over the management of the borough’s newest community building in Twickenham ‘The Exchange’ in mid-July and is now used by Drama St Mary’s for up to 30 hours a week for teaching, research and performances. The month also saw five MA Theatre Directing students receive critical acclaim for their directing debuts at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond.
A new undergraduate degree, Acting BA, was launched in September while 24 BA Drama and Applied Theatre Studies students were taken to Chile and got to lead applied theatre workshops with young people who no longer live with their parents and youngsters who have committed petty crimes.
During their trip they also did some arts and crafts and learned to sew, something that the students used their experiences of to produce their site-specific devised production The Sewcialist Club in November.
Also in September the Dead Rabbits Theatre Company, ran by Senior Lecturer in Drama Kasia Zaremba-Byrne and St Mary’s graduate Samuel Buitekant, received high accolades for My Love lies Frozen in the Ice at both the Calgary Fringe Festival and Edmonton Fringe Festival – before returning home to showcase their work at Drama St Mary’s Theatre.
The fifth annual T Junction Festival took place in October at the University’s Strawberry Hill campus and saw five productions across 10 days, each benefitting from the guidance of a professional director, including Ellen Havard who worked as Staff Director on the National Theatre’s recent production of Jane Eyre.
A production from the Summer’s MA Directors Festival which was directed by St Mary’s alumnus Max Elton was nominated for a 2017 Offie Award by Off West End for Best New Play in October after been given an extended four-week run in London’s Soho Theatre. Max will find out if he wins the award for his play The End of Hope in the Spring.
Academic Director for Drama at St Mary’s Patsy Gilbert, reflected on the University’s employability agenda in October’s edition of The Stage and spoke about how St Mary’s provides practical training combined with an academic focus.
November saw the start of Project 10, a month-long programme of events that gave Drama St Mary’s students advice and opportunities on starting their careers. They were treated to a number of masterclasses from people in the industry such as comedian Ellie Taylor, Theatre Producer Stephen McGill and Artistic Director at Nabakov Theatre, and St Mary’s alumna, Stef O’Driscoll.
The year ended with Defence and Security Reporter for The Guardian Richard Norton-Taylor coming to talk to Drama students about his tribunal play, The Colour of Justice while second year Physical Theatre students performed the final production of 2017, Day 359.
In 2018 St Mary’s is launching two new Drama postgraduate courses – MA London Theatre and MA Playwriting – adding to the flagship MA Theatre Directing programme, run in collaboration with the Orange Tree Theatre, and the only one of its kind in the UK.
Academic Director Patsy Gilbert comments, “2017 has been a truly successful year for Drama St Mary’s. We pride ourselves on offering students invaluable experiences which prepare them for life beyond university – this runs through our intensely vocational BA Acting programme, our award-winning Project 10 employability programme and our work with top professional directors, such as those working in our T Junction Festival.’
“In 2018 we look forward to introducing two new postgraduate courses and celebrating our first cohort of Technical Theatre graduates when they get their robes in the Spring. All of this is testament to the hard work of our Drama team and the fantastic students we work with.”