After a two-year hiatus, the Fifth Form, Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth Drama groups finally got back on the road for the annual London Theatre Tour!
Anticipation had been high, especially with the spectre of positive tests and self-isolation still hanging over our heads, so when all 43 pupils and 4 staff were able to board the coach on Friday morning exactly as planned there was real exhilaration.
After a smooth journey, it was immediately into action. We met up with Jenna and Alex – cast members of the award-winning show, Come From Away – at the legendary Pineapple Dance Studios.
They put the groups through their paces recreating some of the iconic movement sequences from the hit show. Everyone threw themselves into the session. Even though our group included our designers, some of whom would definitely not consider themselves performers, the outcomes were impressive!
There was a little time to relax in our hotel room – once again, we were given a warm welcome by the Travelodge in Covent Garden – then it was off through the sights and sounds of Covent Garden itself, down to the Strand to take over half the Pizza Hut there!
Our Friday evening show was Come From Away itself. For the FF, this was an especially poignant theatre visit. This was the cohort who had seats for Come From Away all booked and paid for as part of their Lower Remove studies. They had been scheduled to see the show in Spring 2020 so getting to their seats in the Phoenix Theatre felt like a long time coming. It was definitely worth the wait! This spectacularly uplifting show focuses on the human triumphs in the wake of 9/11, particularly the heroic hospitality of the inhabitants of the small Newfoundland town of Gander, who took in and comforted 7,000 frightened passengers from planes diverted from American airspace to the old transatlantic airfield on Canada’s eastern extremity. It is searingly truthful at times but the infectious musical score and well-observed humour means that the tone is always one of hope. The spontaneous standing ovation from the entire audience was thoroughly well-deserved and our students were absolutely buzzing on the way back from the hotel.
A certain football match that went to extra time and penalties kept most glued to a TV screen until lights-out time! A good night’s sleep and it was ready for Day Two!
Sadly, West End theatres are not yet fully ‘business as usual and they are still being cautious about allowing members of the public into their backstage areas. Whilst this meant we couldn’t do our traditional backstage theatre tour, we did have the opportunity to tour the Art of Banksy exhibition. This unofficial private collection offers a fascinating insight into the elusive artist’s work.
With theatre design specialists in the group as well as GCSE and A-Level Art students it was a welcome break from physical performance to reflect on visual culture as well. There was also a fun opportunity to create your own Banksy in an area dedicated to selfies alongside adaptations of some of his iconic prints – an opportunity seized upon by many of our students.
Covent Garden was a vibrant as ever and the pupils were able to enjoy some well-earned free time together before heading to Wyndham’s Theatre. Many had already read Martell’s book or seen Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Life of Pi but nothing had prepared any of us for the magnitude of the magical theatrical spectacle that played out before us. Nothing I can say here can match the artistry of the production team without introducing massive ‘spoilers’ – it is the ingenuity with which each new feature of the fantasy emerges on stage that is so riveting. Suffice to say, everyone was stunned and inspired by this most innovative of productions.
Heading home was a curious mix of emotions. Stopping for dinner at Oxford Services again, one pupil commented how ‘morale was flagging’ – not because of tiredness after a packed weekend of events, but simply not wanting it all to end! (I’m not sure the rugby score helped much either!) The solution? Well, it was Drama students on a coach, wasn’t it! The singing started in earnest on the final leg, covering everything from Queen songs, still fresh in the memory from We Will Rock You, to the now obligatory, Sweet Caroline.
Everyone disembarked tired but happy – including the staff! The attitude and conduct had been absolutely impeccable throughout the weekend. All the students, without exception, had been an absolute credit to King’s. It had been a trip worth waiting for and we hope that planning for the 2023 London Theatre Tour goes as smoothly!