Harrow has a long-established and vibrant theatrical tradition, nurturing the talents of dramatists such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Galsworthy, Terence Rattigan, John Mortimer and Richard Curtis, and actors including Cary Elwes, James Dreyfus, Timothy Bentinck and Benedict Cumberbatch.The Drama and Theatre department aims to develop boys' skills in four core areas: discipline, ensemble, empathy and expression. Drama is taught on the curriculum across the School. All boys follow an introductory course in the Shell year, and may then opt for Drama and Theatre courses at GCSE and A Level. 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 productions during the year: the Rattigan Society production, the School Shakespeare Play and a Junior Rattigan Society production. School plays aim to extend the most committed, enthusiastic actors and technicians in the School, forming companies across Houses and year groups. The repertoire is diverse, encompassing musical theatre as well as contemporary and classical work. Productions are often staged in conjunction with partner schools, and have recently included Cyrano de Bergerac, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Oh! What a Lovely War, The History Boys, Emil and the Detectives, and Assassins.
Each year, six of the twelve Houses also produce individual or combined productions. Directed by beaks (teachers) 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 recent programme has included Marie Antoinette, The Laramie Project, The Tempest, A Christmas Carol, Frankenstein and The Three Musketeers.
The annual season also includes the Shell Drama Festival, in which all boys in their first year are involved in a short ensemble-based performance, directed by Sixth Formers, and the House Scenes competition, for which boys from all year groups present a diverse range of work. Boys are also regularly supported to produce and direct their own full productions. In 2018, the inaugural Harrow Fringe Festival showcased a series of short plays written and directed by boys. 2018 also saw the department staging its first production designed to tour local primary schools, devised by a company of boys from across the years.
Shakespeare at Harrow
Harrow has a rich tradition and ongoing commitment to Shakespeare in performance, dating back to 1941, when Speech Room (our assembly hall) lost part of its roof following bombing in the Second World War, and the School took the opportunity to stage a production in conditions reminiscent of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. In 1994, a company of boys from Harrow was the first to perform a full-length Shakespeare play on the stage of the rebuilt Globe on Bankside. In March 2019, the School returned to the Globe with its production of Twelfth Night, performed in celebration of the historic relationship between the two institutions. Proceeds from the event established the annual Jeremy Lemmon Shakespeare Project, in which Harrow boys work alongside students from our partner maintained schools with mentoring from the Globe’s actors, and access to its stages. The School also works closely alongside the Old Harrovian players, a company of alumni actors who have staged a Shakespeare play in Speech Room every year since 1951.
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 and professional mentoring. Boys make up the production crew for all performances. The department is also fortunate to have a series of studio space for teaching, rehearsal and smaller-scale performance.