Harrow has a long-established and vibrant theatrical tradition, nurturing the talents of dramatists 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 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. Drama Scholarships are awarded to enthusiasts of outstanding ability and potential as performers, directors, playwrights or technicians, whom the School hopes will set the benchmark for drama in their commitment and ethos.
The department produces at least 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 girls’ schools.
The School Shakespeare Play has often taken place in Speech Room, following a tradition dating back to 1941, when a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe stage was constructed in Speech Room after it was bombed in the Blitz. In 1994, the School’s production of The Taming of the Shrew was one of the first to play the stage of the reconstructed Globe Theatre on Bankside. At least two Shakespeare plays are now staged at Harrow each year, one by the School and the other by Old Harrovian actors. The School also maintains a rare and extensive collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean costumes.
Each year, six of the twelve houses also produce individual or combined productions. Directed by beaks and encompassing a range of dramatic styles and genres, House Plays provide opportunities for boys with different levels of experience. The repertoire is diverse – encompassing period classics as well as contemporary drama.
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. In 2018, the department staged its first production designed to tour local primary schools, devised by a company of boys from across the years, under the direction of a Theatre Director in Residence.
The Ryan Theatre
Seating approximately 300 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.