John Lyon pupils have long been drawn to the stage, and the School’s Drama Department continues to provide numerous opportunities for budding actors and those who want to learn more about the technical aspects of the theatre.
The School houses two fully equipped studio spaces, perfect for rehearsal and smaller performances. For larger productions, there is a full drama rig in the Boyd Campbell Hall.
Large musicals, such as 2021’s Oliver!, are put on at Harrow School’s 350-seater Ryan Theatre or at local theatres such as the Watersmeet.
The annual School musical continues to provide the focal point for Drama at John Lyon. With dozens of performers and big backstage and technical teams working hard to produce top-quality productions, the shows are always sell-out events over three nights each December.
Recent productions include Oliver! (2021), We Will Rock You (2019), Anything Goes (2018) and South Pacific (2017). Planning is already underway for the first post-lockdown musical.
The recent lockdowns posed many challenges to Drama performances, but did not prevent them from taking place online.
Spring 2021 saw a performance of Look Up by Andrew Muir. The new play, part of the National Theatre Connections festival, was broadcast across two nights to a wide audience. Starring a cast of Drama Scholars and other pupils from various year groups, Look Up was rehearsed and recorded entirely remotely, with each performer acting from their own home, and the footage then put together to create the final performance.
The most recent annual Year 7 Drama Festival also took place online, with each of the year group’s four classes performing from home. This year we saw a bright and vibrant rendition of George Orwell’s dystopian Animal Farm; high frequency gags offered up in The Least Offensive Play in the Whole Darned World; something a little darker with Grimm’s classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel; and a touch of The Bard for a spooky rendition of Macbeth.
A rare and coveted membership of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain was awarded to Sixth Form student Louis Tyrrell in 2020, who will now train and perform with the country’s very best young actors.
After submitting his application, Louis attended a group improvisation and exercise workshop morning at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre before going on to a solo audition and interview. At the same time, similar auditions were taking place in 90 other venues across the country with many hundreds of young hopefuls all aiming for the same few memberships to the prestigious theatre company that has produced some of Britain’s most-loved actors, including Idris Elba, David Harewood, David Oyelowo and Zawe Ashton.
Throughout his time at John Lyon, Louis has been a mainstay of the Drama Department and is well used to auditioning, having appeared in plays and musicals as diverse as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
Louis said: “In the one-to-one audition and interview I talked about my experiences, my thoughts on recent productions I had seen, and why I wanted to be an actor and what joining the National Youth Theatre would mean to me. For my audition piece I chose The Roses of Eyam, which I like because I could portray different emotions.”
Louis’ membership of the theatre lasts until he is 26-years-old and will give him the opportunity to train and perform with the very best young actors, under leading directors in some of the world’s most famous theatres.
Year 7 pupil Eric Zoica recently starred as Nibs in a brand-new audio version of J M Barrie’s classic play, alongside household names such as Sir Kenneth Branagh, Olivia Colman, Clive Rowe, Jane Horrocks, Bertie Carvel and Sharon D Clarke.
The recording, in support of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH), premiered online on Christmas Eve 2020. Eric sent an audition tape and was soon informed he would play the part of Nibs, described as “happy and debonair, possibly the bravest Lost Boy”. Because of the numerous restrictions in place, all his parts were recorded in a make-shift bedroom recording studio at home, with all equipment and props sent to the house and more than ten hours of rehearsals before the actual recording began.
Eric said: “Recording Peter Pan was an amazing experience for me. It was an unusual experience too, as it was all done remotely, but I can definitely say that it was one of the best things I have done in my life. Acting is one of my passions and it was fantastic to meet all these famous actors, chat and joke with them and ask them lots of questions and tips. My aspiration is that I will become one of them in the future!”
Our dramatic history
Large productions have been taking place at John Lyon for well over a century, and numerous big name began their stage careers here, including actors Timothy West and Julian Rhind-Tutt, and director Michael Bogdanov.