Harrow has a long-established and vibrant theatrical tradition, nurturing the talents of writers such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Galsworthy, Terence Rattigan and Richard Curtis, and actors including Edward, James and Laurence Fox, Cary Elwes, James Dreyfus and Benedict Cumberbatch.
As well as being taught across the School, Drama is today a vital component of our broad co-curricular offering, enabling boys to grow in confidence and self-awareness and to learn valuable skills in self-discipline, organization, communication and teamwork. Boys involved in Drama at Harrow emerge as young men with emotional intelligence who can possess, articulate and implement a creative vision. Ensemble, clarity and creativity are at the core of the department’s work. OT Drama Scholarships are awarded to enthusiasts of outstanding ability and potential as performers, technicians or practitioners, whom the School hopes will set the benchmark for drama in their commitment and ethos.
The department produces three major School plays during the year: the Rattigan Society production, the School Shakespeare Play and a Junior Rattigan Society production. Rattigan Society productions aim to extend the most committed, enthusiastic actors in the school. The repertoire is diverse, encompassing musical theatre as well as contemporary and classical work. Productions are often staged in conjunction with London girls’ schools.
The School Shakespeare Play has traditionally taken place in Speech Room, following a custom that goes back to 1941, when a replica of the stage in Shakespeare’s Globe was constructed in Speech Room after it was bombed in the Blitz. The School also has in its possession an extensive collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean costumes. At least two Shakespeare plays are staged each year, one performed by Harrow boys and the other by Old Harrovian actors.
Each year, six out of the twelve houses also produce individual or combined productions. Directed by Beaks and encompassing a range of dramatic styles and genres – from period classics such as The Rivals or Tartuffe to more contemporary work such as Sucker Punch or Humble Boy – House Plays provide an opportunity for stronger actors to take lead roles and for boys who are keen but perhaps less confident also to be involved.
The season also includes the Shell Drama Festival, in which all boys in their first year are involved on or backstage in a short performance, directed by sixth formers, and a variety of pupil-led productions and less formal performance events. We also host external productions from visiting companies, and practitioners regularly offer workshops, careers advice and lectures on all aspects of theatre. The Rattigan Society takes regular trips to the latest professional work produced in London and beyond.
The Ryan Theatre
Seating approximately 400 people across two levels, the Ryan Theatre is equipped to industry standards, and staffed by a team of creative, technical and administrative professionals. Boys interested in the technical elements of drama are able to learn about scenic design and construction, sound and lighting design, stage management, costume and make-up through practical involvement. Boys make up the production crew for all performances.