Dunhurst brings Norse myths to Steep stage

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Pupils at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst brought the Norse myths to life last week in a dynamic and compelling refashioning of the ancient stories for the stage. Burning Ice, Biting Flame told the story of how the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil (the Great Ash Tree of Norse cosmology) are tricked into self-destruction by the god Loki. Desiring revenge for the maltreatment of his hideous family, Loki creates havoc and plays each world off against the other which culminates in Ragnarok – the end of the world.

Pupils in Blocks 1 and 2 (year 7 & 8) worked incredibly hard to bring this production to the stage with everyone working over the weekend to prepare for the final performances. They were set to work acting, rehearsing with the band, prop making, and organising back stage – the pupils were involved in every aspect of the production. They also had free reign to develop their on stage characters and add in lines they thought would work.

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Head of Drama at Dunhurst Simon Kingsley-Pallant, who wrote the play, said: “Following on from the success of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we wanted to do something a little different and to make it more unusual. The stories are very potent, full of vitality and adventure. And really, they should be much better known than they are.  Essentially the gods are a highly dysfunctional extended family, always bickering and competing with one another, sometimes with lethal results, and the cast thoroughly enjoyed playing these powerful yet flawed beings.”

With a beautifully created set by Susan Macfarlane, Head of Art at Dunhurst, depicting the Nine Worlds, the production was soundscaped by Ben Harlan and the band. Much of the music was improvised with voice, harp, drums, synths, bottles, cans, and crackling plastic to create some wonderful sound effects.  Rosie Nash choreographed the dances, two of which were epic – the Creation of Yggdrasil and the Binding of Loki, all contributing to a memorable and enthralling production.

*Photos by John-Paul Bland; to view the full gallery on the photographer’s site, click here and enter the password which can be found in your emailed version of the Saturday Bulletin 1 October 2016. Any purchase of image downloads from this gallery will benefit the John Badley Foundation which offers financial support through bursaries, giving more young people a chance to benefit from the transformational opportunity a Bedales education can provide.

The Snow Queen

There is often a misplaced perception that all pupils who come to Dunhurst are super confident and at a drop of a hat will jump in front of a large audience, sing, dance, act and take their bow in the limelight with an apparent casual ease well beyond their years. In the latest performance of The Snow Queen we saw a fabulous cast of actors doing just that; the mesmerising white apparition of Evie as the lead role captivating the audience with her beautiful solo singing pieces before being carried off by her pack of highly accomplished dancing wolves during her death scene. Tilly’s incredible presence as the truly terrifying Crystal Shard was joined by her team of equally animated and eye catching fellow travellers who could all sing, act and dance in equal measure. The dance numbers were both full of fun and life but also very beautiful as seen in the gorgeous choreography of Ella and Monty.  Dan and Ella took the fascinating and compelling story through its journey from their orphanage to the villagers and then onward, meeting ever more strange and wonderful creatures, fairy tale characters and even gardeners, a royal family and politicians. A large cast of extremely talented young people indeed.

In many ways what we saw on stage was the tip of a very creative iceberg; behind the scenes there were those who have a wealth of other creative talents and who are blessed with a tremendous community spirit, keen to support their peers on stage whilst gaining great pleasure and satisfaction from their work behind the scenes. Firstly the musicians who are concealed in the pit, but at such a young age played alongside highly accomplished adult musicians. The music and all the beautiful songs were composed and arranged by Ben Harlan our Director of Music and were complex and challenging but it was clearly evident that all the band loved being part of this new creation – adult and child alike.  Up in the lighting box were Joly and Will; a complex task ensuring that all the amazing lighting effects (including a spectacular sky of stars) appeared at the right time. Billy had the difficult job of sound, working with our wonderful new Gap students Alec and Verity he worked ceaselessly over the rehearsal period supporting the acting.

Back stage is a very frenzied place as actors transform into character. Frances, Charlotte, Emma and Georgie had produced clear designs and organised the make-up area. It is no mean feat to put makeup on a very large cast of pupils, many with more than one part thanks to Simon Kingsly-Pallant’s highly imaginative adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story. Working like removal men were the stage crew, Joaquin, Ivan, Hugo, Lorenzo, Max, Nicholas, Charlie, Jamie and Herman. They deftly carried a myriad of props and stage elements on and off with great care; not a glamourous job but very indicative of their good heartedness to be involved and support their peers. Beatrice and Ernie made up the production team and a large number of pupils (and staff) helped to fold the programmes into a rather natty star shape.

A fantastic team of parents produced the costumes, with the wolves costumes receiving much acclaim and the overall colour and vibrancy of the costumes alongside the more minimal black and white set worked magnificently. At the end of the play, Evie thanked Jake for her Snow Queen dress. It was an incredible creation and something that represented hours of designing, thought and work from our very talented Block 1 fashion designer. What was very tangible was the gratitude those on stage felt towards their support teams, designers and techies. It was a fabulous whole community production where all pupils could participate according to their own skills and passions, with those on stage having the humility to appreciate the talents and generosity of their peers behind the scene, and those behind the scenes happily celebrating the talents of those they were supporting.

By Jane Grubb, Head, Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst

Bedales Prep granted special permission to stage Moomin musical

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Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the birth of writer Tove Jansson in Finland with a musical performed by pupils over the summer entitled Tales from Moominvalley.

The school received special permission from The Moomin estate to write and perform the musical, with Bedales being one of only three productions in the UK to receive such permission, including a show about Tove Jansson’s childhood at the Unicorn Theatre, London.

Written by Head of Drama at Bedales Prep, Simon Kingsley-Pallant, along with Music from the school’s Director of Music, Ben Harlan and an amazing set created by the Head of Art, Stephen York, the musical follows the lives of the popular characters featured in Jansson’s books including Little My, Sniff and Fillyjonk.

Commenting on the performance, Jane Grubb, Head of Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, said: “The production was enchanting and the pupils magically brought to life the tales from the Moomins. I was delighted to see nearly 100 pupils taking part – through song, dance and some amazing acting performances. We are very fortunate at Dunhurst to have such a talented Arts team  with drama, art, design and music working collaboratively together to produce such fresh and original work; I think Tove Jansson would have been very pleased indeed.”

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.