Harrow has a long-established and vibrant dramatic tradition, nurturing the talents of dramatists such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Terence Rattigan and Richard Curtis, and actors including Benedict Cumberbatch.
Drama Scholarships are awarded to enthusiasts of outstanding ability and potential as performers, directors, playwrights or technicians. Some recent alumni have progressed directly to leading training institutions including The Juilliard School, New York, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. For many others, Harrow Drama builds character and develops skills relating to discipline, ensemble, empathy and creative expression.
Curricular and Co-curricular opportunities
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. An annual programme of whole-School productions aims to extend the most committed actors and technicians in the School, forming companies across Houses and year groups. Productions are often staged in conjunction with partner schools. Each year, six of the 12 Houses also produce fully staged individual or combined productions. Directed by beaks (teachers) and with a diverse repertoire, House Plays provide opportunities for boys of all levels of experience. 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, and the House Scenes competition, for which boys from all year groups present a diverse range of self-produced work. Boys also regularly produce and direct their own full-scale productions.
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 Jeremy Lemmon Project, in which Harrow boys form an acting company alongside students from our maintained-school partners, with mentoring from the Globe’s actors, and annual performances on its stages. The School also works closely with the Old Harrovian Players, an alumni company who have staged a Shakespeare play in Speech Room every year since 1951.
Partnerships and Communities
The department runs a developed programme of partnerships and outreach work. Community groups regularly make use of Harrow’s theatre facilities, and the department mounts a series of projects in which Harrovians collaborate with peers from partner schools. 2018 saw the department staging its first production designed to tour local primary schools, devised by a company of boys from across the years. In April 2022, as part of the School’s 450th-anniversary celebrations, the department staged a major production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, bringing together more than 150 performers from ten schools and community groups in the London Borough of Harrow.
The Ryan Theatre
Seating approximately 300 people across two levels, the Ryan Theatre is equipped to industry standards and staffed by a team of six creative, technical and administrative professionals, in addition to drama teachers. Boys interested in the technical elements of drama can learn about scenic design and construction, sound, lighting and AV design, stage management, costume and make-up, through practical involvement and professional mentoring. Boys make up the production crew for all performances. The department also makes use of a suite of studio spaces for teaching, rehearsal and smaller-scale performance.