The Performing Arts engages with the entire school curriculum. Drama, Music and Dance’s public aspects – performing and sharing work with others – provide important links between the girls, parents and the wider community. Above all, the performing arts at Tormead should be enjoyable, accessible and actively involve girls at all levels and in many different ways. Within Tormead School’s academic curriculum it has a vital part to play, providing a unique outlet for self-expression, creativity, teamwork and fun.
The Performing Arts:
Music plays a major part in the wider life of the school through timetabled lessons, including the option to study for GCSE and A Level and a wealth of extra-curricular opportunities. Music is taught in purpose-built facilities comprising dedicated music classrooms, one of which contains a suite of Apple Macs running Logic, Sibelius and GarageBand software. There are seven practice rooms plus an ensemble rehearsal space.
Some 150 girls take part in musical performances during the course of the year. These range from informal lunchtime concerts to major musical events, held both in and out of school. The Music Department has excellent relationships with a wide variety of venues and professional musical groups and we are always looking to build on these still further. In recent times members of the Chamber Choir and the Symphony Orchestra have participated in professional recordings in a studio in Islington.
Our ethos is to allow the girls to feel comfortable and confident when performing to an audience, at whatever their performance level.
Girls are encouraged to sing in one of the four choirs and to learn to play at least one musical instrument. Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band and Jazz Band are just some of the ensembles available to girls. The Jazz Band conducts a biennial tour to Europe during the summer holiday.
Approximately 40 percent of girls in the Senior School have individual music lessons in school; they are supported through Associated Board or Trinity Examinations up to, and beyond, Grade 8. Free trial lessons are made available to girls considering a new instrument, and the department runs its well-established Endangered Instrument Scheme which offers a year’s worth of free lessons on the rarer orchestra instruments to girls upon successful audition.
The aims of Tormead Drama are threefold: enjoyment, innovation and self-expression. It has a unique place in the school curriculum. We aim to give every Drama students skills that are transferable and useful in the wider world, such as co-operation, self-control and, most importantly, self-confidence, through a wide and varied curricular and extra-curricular programme.
A recent Russell Group survey asked the HR departments of all the FTSE 250 companies what were the most important qualities they looked for in an employee. The two most common answers were teamwork and communication – both skills which are implicit in drama lessons. We promote a job in the Arts as a possibility to be considered and therefore encourage professionals in to teach workshops whenever possible. We make our girls aware of external events and opportunities, as well as offering a varied plethora of internal activities for them to be involved in, both on stage and behind-the-scenes.
‘Being involved in Tormead Drama activities has been a hugely rewarding experience, encouraging me to experiment and explore new concepts from the past, present andfuture in a highly creative and fun environment.’—Poppy, Tormead Drama student
The Drama curriculum
In Year 7, the main aim is to teach the pupils to develop co-operation, trust and communication skills; to build confidence and self-control; the beginnings of characterisation and the basics of stagecraft. This is achieved by structured exercises in improvisation and script work. These skills are then extended into more complicated and challenging work as the year progresses. They will also discover more about how drama can be used as a means of exploring issues.
In Year 8, the pupils learn more about stagecraft and the importance of the audience; movement and voice; focus; maintaining a role; characterisation and spatial awareness. They study specific techniques such as mask-work and commedia dell’arte. In the course of this study, they are introduced to more challenging improvisations and more sophisticated scripts as well as developing a good grasp of drama vocabulary.
In Year 9, the aim is to consolidate basic presentation techniques whilst keeping the focus on the co-operation skills of individuals working in a group. There will continue to be structured exercises in both improvisation and script work designed to test their imagination and this will help prepare students for the GCSE should they opt for it, as well as develop skills for life. They will end this Key Stage with a devising project that will give them the artistic freedom to present drama in a style of their own choosing.
Drama at GCSE is a subject that is both active and creative. Lessons consist of practical work, discussion and reflective writing and students will be able to work in more depth than they have been able to previously. We follow the Eduqas syllabus, which places a strong emphasis on practical devising work – there is definitely less written work than most other subjects as the examination board encourages the ability to write succinctly. Students will learn about all aspects of theatrecraft: acting, design and directing. We explore various practitioners such as Stanislavski, Frantic Assembly, The Paper Birds, Brecht and Boal as well as specific genres such as Physical Theatre and Theatre-in-Education. Candidates can also gain an understanding of how to use make-up, costume, set design, lighting and sound effectively and have the option to choose one of these design areas for assessment instead of performance.
We have many different types of student opt for Drama and it is rated highly by all universities as it helps make you confident, sensitive and a strong leader. Whether you are a naturally outgoing person or a quiet, thoughtful person you can succeed in this subject as long as you bring enthusiasm, imagination, focus and a willingness to work creatively.
In a nutshell, GCSE Drama is serious fun.
How is the course examined?
Component 1 (40%) is a devised unit in which you will create an exciting piece of new theatre in small groups, based on a practitioner or style of theatre you have studied. There is a written report about the process (which has a maximum word count of just 900 words) plus an evaluation of the performance which is written in controlled conditions.
Component 2 (20%) involves the performance of a script to an examiner in small groups/pairs. There is no written work for this component.
Component 3 (40%) is a written examination consisting of a series of questions based on an interesting set text we will have studied practically, plus one short question analysing a theatre production you will have seen. The examination lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes.
We operate an inclusive ethos and stage at least two productions per year, involving girls from every year group within the Senior School. The style of each production varies to ensure we show a range of comedies, tragedies, modern and classics. Every other year, the school stages a musical. Recent productions have included Pygmalion, Mama Yankee’s Life Machine, Guys and Dolls and Our Town. Girls are encouraged not only to act but also to help in other areas of theatrical production, such as stage management, costume, make-up, lighting and sound. Theatre Technical Club runs once a week to cater for these students and is regularly led by the 6th Form Technical Theatre Mentors. There is also a weekly Drama Club and a Glee Musical Theatre Club and the work undertaken here often leads to public performances in the form of assemblies, small scale productions or as part of the annual Drama, Music and Art Evening. A week-long Drama School, run by the Head of Department, takes place at the end of the summer term which is open to Tormead girls and RGS boys from Year 9. We also hold an annual House Drama competition where entries are written/devised, auditioned, cast and directed by the Sixth Form House Captains, with a cast selected from girls in Year 8 and 9 under the supervision of a member of staff.
Theatre visits and workshops
There are theatre trips organised annually as part of the GCSE requires pupils to experience live theatre performances as part of the course. Highlights have included trips to see ‘The Woman in Black’, Frantic Assembly’s ‘The Unreturning’, Florian Zeller’s ‘The Son’, Kneehigh’s ‘Flying Lovers of Vitebsk’ and Little Bulb’s production of ‘Orpheus’. The older pupils also take part in at least one bespoke workshop by an outside practitioner each year. Most recently, we have welcomed Splendid Productions, The Paper Birds and Frantic Assembly to Tormead. We also have good links with the wider community such as the Drama Departments at Guildford School of Acting and at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford and we often undertake joint ventures, such as workshops and productions with their students and staff.
LAMDA speech and drama
Speech & Drama is a very popular extra-curricular subject at Tormead. Two highly-experienced and qualified teachers work with small groups of students in a dedicated examination space to develop their communication and performance skills.
Students are encouraged to work creatively and sympathetically with each other to acquire knowledge, develop technical skills and have fun in a relaxed, positive atmosphere. The ability to express themselves articulately, whilst remaining relaxed and confident, is an invaluable life skill.
LAMDA examinations are held at Tormead twice a year and Grades 6, 7 and 8 earn UCAS tariff points.