King’s has a national reputation for its drama. The annual season of productions affords pupils the opportunity to participate as performers, writers, directors, designers, technicians, publicists, stage managers and musicians. In the autumn term 2015, major productions included Tales from Ovid, which also played at the Edinburgh Festival in the summer, Wildwood Tales – a semi-devised piece of ensemble storytelling, and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. There is also an established tradition of musical theatre, most recently with How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying in 2014.
Since King’s became one of the only schools in history to play a commercial, West End run with Never the Sinner in 1996, off-site productions have become a regular feature. Each year, the programme also includes student-produced productions (recently, sixth-form directors have staged Basden’s There is a War, Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound). The inaugural House Play Festival took place in 2010 and has now become an annual institution, involving around 150 pupils each year. A series of drama clubs exist across the school, in which older pupils work with those from younger years on improvisation and devising. As of 2014, the department has been working in conjunction with the school’s development office to run a series of workshops for parents and alumni of the school, to share drama skills.
Theatre trips are a regular part of the curriculum for drama classes across the school, but the Theatre Society, open to all sixth-formers, also takes regular trips to the latest work produced in London and beyond. In addition, leading theatre companies and practitioners have visited King’s for workshops and master classes. In recent years, companies touring productions to Collyer Hall Theatre have included Propeller Theatre, Showstopper – The Improvised Musical and the Cambridge Footlights.
The drama department is heavily involved in the school’s partnerships work, and currently runs a series of established joint projects, collaborating with local schools. In March 2015, the department mounted its most ambitious partnerships project to date – The Merton Mysteries – a community production bringing together ten schools in the borough.
In addition to drama teaching staff, pupils work with the theatre technical manager, the theatre and events technician and the theatre administrator on the backstage elements of mounting productions. Drama scholarships are awarded at 13+ and sixth form level to enthusiasts of outstanding ability and potential as performers, technicians or practitioners, whom the school hopes will set the benchmark for drama in their commitment and ethos. The flourishing drama scene at King’s has inspired a very large number of pupils to make a career in the world of theatre and film as actors, directors, comedians, writers and lighting and sound designers.