Last month, (11/05/2012), I received a message from a friend of mine, who is in his final year of studying Contemporary Theatre at East 15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex. The message was a last minute invite to the showcase performance the final year students were giving at the East 15 theatre, involving two 15 minute scratch performances, one a play, the other a musical both written by current students, and 30 minutes of improvised theatre based on the suggestions and shout outs from the audience. A few months ago, I travelled to see the play my friend had written be performed by some of the students and I had been very impressed with the talent and professionalism I had seen on display, so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see some more! Rather than writing a review of what I saw, I think it best to write more of a report, explaining what was on show, who was performing, and generally celebrating the talent that is still pouring out of Britain’s drama schools today.
The evening began with a 15 minute two-man play called ‘The 8th Wave’, written and directed by student James Ernest. Set in a hostage situation, Mathew (Nasi Voustas) is tied to a chair by Brian (Luke Clarke). Watching the play we see the relationship between captive and kidnapper develop over a conversation about smoking habits. Edgy, slightly scary yet at times comical, it’s amazing how 15 minutes of watching someone eating beans on toast and chatting almost amiably with a hostage about cigarettes can be so captivating.
The next 15 minutes was quite different in comparison, this time I was watching an exert of a musical called ‘Young at War’ by Anthony Stephen Springhall, Daniel Brewerton, Matt Wall and Matt Lapinskas. The music was original and fitted well with the theme of the plot. After a rousing rally in the town hall a young man (Adam El Hagar) enlists in the army and sets off for war in 1914. The goodbyes were moving and the musical arrangements and harmonies were pretty. The full musical is proposed as a production to take part in the 100th anniversary national remembrance of World War One in 2014, and if the 15 minute snippet I saw is anything to go by, I think it’ll be greeted very warmly.
The final 30 minutes of the evening was by far the most exciting, as we got to see the students completely improvising based on audience suggestions. All of the third year contemporary drama students present on the night took part, and they managed to create ideas that were funny, original and energetic, if at times a little mental. In the final moments we had both Jesus King of the Jews and Shesus King of the Shoes on stage singing in ‘Drug Trafficking the Opera’. Each new concept was introduced by Head of Contemporary Acting Uri Roodner, who was very helpful in explaining dramatic styles, as well as encouraging the audience to really challenge the performers. I thought they all did really well, even making ‘Meerkat Manor’ fun and interesting. The improvisation skills weren’t just evident in the acting though, with some of the students taking instruments on to the stage, managing to create music on the spot which completely fitted the stories and songs being created on stage.
As I said before, this isn’t a review, just a report of what I saw, and it was a great learning curve for me as an amateur critic to be invited to see the makings of some of Britain’s future talents and stage performers. It was an enjoyable experience, and the students at East 15 Acting School really should be commended for their talent, energy and obvious passion for their field. I imagine many will go on to be very successful in their careers, and I wish them all the best of luck as their final year of training comes to an end.
The performers on show were:
Adam El Hagar
Anthony Stephen Springhall
Jasmine Woodcock Stewart
Pictures taken from the East 15 website www.east15.ac.uk