At Merchant Taylors’ Prep, we celebrate the role every individual pupil has to offer in our progressive learning environment where ‘everyone is someone’. In line with recent developments in the new Primary National Curriculum, Drama has become an important part of our quest to develop well-rounded and assured boys who will approach their future schools, lives and careers with confidence and high self-esteem.
Merchant Taylors’ Prep boys receive Drama tuition as early as Nursery and Reception, where they participate in a wide range of drama games and exercises to explore characters, to raise social awareness and to consider the emotions and challenges of the modern world. All Pre-Prep boys also take part in school performances in The Lalani New Barn Theatre such as nativity plays and recitals in collaboration with the Music department. Recent Pre-Prep productions have included ‘The Learning Friends Nativity’; ‘Manger Mouse’; ‘Santa's Little Helper’; ‘To Be Or Not To Be’; ‘The Boy With No Talent’; ‘Census Sums’ and ‘A Donkey's Tail’.
Years 3 and 4
As they move into Senior School in Years 3 and 4, Merchant Taylors’ Prep pupils receive specialist Drama teaching from the Director of Drama. Weekly workshop sessions include physical and vocal exercises which help to build confidence and to remove inhibitions. The boys work together to promote a healthy atmosphere of teamwork, co-operation and trust towards future dramatic projects and everyday school life. There is a strong emphasis on storytelling in Year 3 as well as the exploration of characters to work alongside the English curriculum. We also focus on clear public speaking in the delivery of poetry, prose and dramatic text.
By Year 4, the boys use Drama sessions to explore specific characters and scenarios from their English class readers. They also work more closely with play scripts and the spoken word, before moving on to experiment with the body including mime, tableaux and physical theatre. All Year 3 and 4 boys participate in a spring musical production in The Lalani New Barn Theatre as well as taking part in the biannual Beale Clear Speaking Poetry Competition. Recent Year 3 and 4 productions have included ’Hoodwinked’; ‘Daniel – A Hard Act To Swallow’; ‘Pirates of the Curry Bean’; ‘Ye-Ha!’; ‘Treasure Island’; ‘The Keymaster’ and ‘Blast Off – Mr Jones Goes to Jupiter’.
Years 5 and 6
In Year 5 and 6, pupils investigate characters and dilemmas from novels in greater depth and detail, with more emphasis on improvisation, theatrical terminology and the evaluation of performance. All Year 5 boys take part in a mask theatre project during the spring term, exploring the intricate demands of mask technique and devising their own scenes for public performance using the school’s collection of character masks provided by Trestle Theatre Company. There is also an opportunity for Year 5 pupils to write and
perform their own dramatic scenes in the style of their English class reader, ‘The Boy Who Fell into a Book’ by Alan Ayckbourn.
Boys spend the first half of Year 6 rehearsing for a full-text dramatic production in March. The production is auditioned, rehearsed and produced by a creative team of ex-industry professionals including the director, stage designer and lighting designer. Recent Year 6 productions have included ‘Emil and the Detectives’; ‘Our Day Out’; ‘Grimm Tales’; ‘Bugsy Malone’; ‘Seussical the Musical’; ‘Oliver!’; ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Year 6 Drama lessons then return to more intensive study of characters from novels, preparation for the biannual Beale Clear Speaking Poetry Competition and the devising of individual play scripts inspired by ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’.
Years 7 and 8 – LAMDA Examinations
As part of our world class educational outlook, Merchant Taylors’ Prep embraces LAMDA public speaking examinations within our progressive curriculum. All Year 7 boys receive individual tutorials in preparation for their Grade 3 Communication exams in The Speaking of Verse and Prose. LAMDA examinations are globally renowned and highly regarded by future schools, boosting the boys’ confidence and self-esteem in readiness for next school interviews as well as their future lives and careers. The school is extremely proud of our impressive record of Merit and Distinction passes since the inception of LAMDA exams in 2010. Year 7 boys also enjoy watching and discussing National Theatre Collection productions on screen via our Dramatic Criticism project.
Year 8 boys begin the year with our Theatre Studies programme, exploring the history of theatre via an evolving selection of dramatic texts from ancient Greek Tragedy, through Medieval Mystery Plays; Jacobean and Elizabethan theatre; Commedia dell’arte and Restoration Comedy; Realism, Expressionism and Epic Theatre to contemporary theatre of the present day. Finally, Year 8 boys audition, rehearse and perform one final major school production in The Lalani New Barn Theatre as part of their farewell to Merchant Taylors’ Prep at the end of June. Recent Year 8 productions have included ’Around the World in Eighty Days’; ‘An Italian Straw Hat’; ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’; ‘Holes’; ‘Private Peaceful’; ‘Twelfth Night’; ‘The Prodigious Snob’ and ‘The Tempest’. The Year 8 production of ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’ was also made into an independent short film which was shot on location by a professional film crew in 2012.
The Lalani New Barn Theatre
Merchant Taylors’ Prep is fortunate enough to have its own purpose-built, 200-seat performance space, The Lalani New Barn Theatre, which was opened in 2008. Spencer Hinton, our Director of Drama, is an ex-professional theatre director who has staged over a hundred productions in the UK and abroad, working for such companies as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Almeida Theatre and the Peter Hall Company in the West End. Mr Hinton was the Artistic Director of Brave New World Theatre Company for eleven years as well as running Manitou Children’s Theatre in Ontario, Canada. He was also the Drama Subject Adviser for the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), advising prep school Drama teachers throughout the UK and Europe.