Live theatre returns to Oakham School this week, with the Scholars’ Production of Decky Does a Bronco by Douglas Maxwell. Some of Oakham’s famous alumni have applauded the School’s efforts to bring back live theatre. Stars of stage and screen have taken time to send inspirational good luck messages to the pupils ahead of their performances.
“We are absolutely thrilled and delighted that we can return, safely, to live theatre,” says Gilly Norell, Director of Drama at Oakham. “This is far bigger than just our School production. We are trying, in our small way, to hold the torch alight for the theatre industry – at a time when so many other venues are simply not able to be open.”
Inspirational messages of support have been sent in from Oakham’s theatrical alumni. Messages from renowned actors Greg Hicks (71) and Richard Hope (71), along with acclaimed Director and Writer Thomas Hescott (96), will be shared for the actors and our audiences to see before each show. Richard Hope’s message described Oakham as ‘remarkable’ and said, “With COVID-19 restrictions and many shows cancelled, performing arts venues are struggling. So, well done Oakham for bringing back ‘livetheatre’.” Whilst Thomas Hescott said, “In the midst of a pandemic which is driving people into isolation I am so proud that my school has found a way of bringing people together, of sharing that same space, a space that I have always found sacred, and allowing those students to have a voice.”
This is the first production the School has been able to host since March, due to Coronavirus restrictions requiring all performances to be online. Whilst the School has continued to teach Drama, LAMDA and Dance remotely through lockdown and this term in person, all performances have had to been streamed. The Decky Does a Bronco show is able to go on because of the choice of play involving just five actors, all of whom are in the same year group ‘bubble’. The performers – Clarissa, Caleb, Sofia, Lizzie and Callum – are all Drama Scholars at Oakham. The School’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre has been set up specially to allow socially distanced audiences of students and staff.
“It’s been so incredibly hard to bring this production to fruition,” continues Gilly. “At one point we were even running our rehearsals with three of the actors in self isolation and one in the theatre! The sheer resilience and perseverance of these young actors has been astonishing. This is not only the pinnacle of their acting careers at Oakham – their performances are excellent – but it’s also their lockdown story. Their tenacity, good humour and astonishing efforts have enabled them to each play a starring role in bringing back live theatre, and keeping the Creative Arts alive at a time when we all need it the most.”
Richard Hope, who has enjoyed a hugely successful and varied career on stage and screen since leaving Oakham in 1971, passed on some wise words of advice to the cast, crew and creative to “enjoy tonight as a positive lockdown experience; share the moment with your group and audience bubble; bring your simmering excitement, creativity and sheer energy of youth to the boil.”
Greg Hicks, the award-winning actor, also sent a profound message to the actors, which included his thoughts on how theatre “is an antidote to how blind we all can be to the depth of the world around us…and an antidote to all sickness, physical and spiritual.”
Everyone at Oakham is looking forward to the ‘antidote’ that is Decky Does a Bronco, performed live in the QET.