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 A Level using the Eduqas exam board.
A Level 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.
There is a wealth of extra-curricular opportunities on offer. 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.
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.
In the Sixth Form, girls are encouraged to direct their own ensembles. For example, Schola Cantorum, is a group of elite singers who rehearse on a weekly basis under the leadership of a Sixth Former. Sixth Formers also arrange and direct ensembles for the House Music Competition, and support members of the Prep Jazz Band during their rehearsals and concerts.
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 student 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 and invite 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 and future in a highly creative and fun environment.”Poppy, Tormead Drama student
The AS and A Level courses look at the totality of what makes successful theatre, from conception to realisation. Students will be provided with access to the best resources in contemporary theatre through regular theatre visits, workshops and the excellent facilities we have available in the purpose-built JCS Performing Arts building. Drama A Level at Tormead is very much a hands-on process, where much time is spent thinking, creating and doing. Every component must be developed using the techniques and working methods of either an influential theatre practitioner or a recognised theatre company. We study the Eduqas specification in the Sixth Form and this helps students to build upon the practitioners studied at GCSE, such as Brecht, Stanislavski and Frantic Assembly, as well as study a wide range of new ones at A Level, such as Emma Rice, Katie Mitchell and Gecko.
As at GCSE, candidates can be entered as design students with options such as make-up, costume, set design, lighting and sound available for assessment instead of performance.
We aim to provide information and advice for those that wish to continue with drama in higher education and university. Information regarding Drama Clubs, courses, auditions, television agencies, events and opportunities, both in and out of school, are shared with girls regularly. There is also a copy of ‘The Stage and Television Today’ newspaper, which is the industry magazine and gives all manner of advice to amateurs, professionals, students and teachers alike, available from our library.
Component 1: (60% of AS/20% of A Level) involves the creation, development and performance of a piece of theatre based on a reinterpretation of an extract from a play eg perform a scene from an existing script but devise a new ending. This is a mixture of devising and scripted work so students get the best of both worlds!
Component 2: (40 % of A Level only) students take part in the creation, development and performance of two pieces of theatre: a devised piece and an extract from a script.
Component 3: (40% of AS/A Level) involves the study of three great plays: ‘Machinal’ by Sophie Treadwell (AS and A Level), ‘Love and Information’ by Caryl Churchill (A Level only) and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, directed by Marianne Elliott (A Level only). These plays will be explored practically throughout the course to prepare candidates thoroughly for a written examination.
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 Sixth Form Technical Theatre Mentors. Sixth Form Drama Captains and Subject Scholars often volunteer to assist with weekly Lower Drama Clubs, which can lead to them directing a production with a particular year group. One recent production saw a Year 8 performance of ‘The Highwayman’ to the whole of Years 5 and 6.
Sixth Formers regularly take part as performers, directors and choreographers in the 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. Tormead also hosts 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 Years 8 and 9, all under the supervision of a member of staff.
Theatre Visits and Workshops
There are at least four theatre trips organised annually as A Level Drama students are required 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’. 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.