At our Grand Opening, parents and guests were treated to a vibrant physical theatre performance by our Year 9 Drama pupils. Bending and twisting into common household objects like a shower head, TV screen, and even a full-fledged car, the pupils portrayed a typical “Day in the Life of a Brighton College Vietnam Pupil” to the delight and thundering applause of the audience.
The mastermind behind this enchanting performance is Mr. James Rushton, Head of Drama at Brighton College Vietnam. Mr. Rushton’s ultimate goal is for every Brightonian to have been part of one school play by the time they finish their school careers. “Drama allows pupils to collaborate, to be creative, and to be imaginative,” he shared. “Being in a play, or being part of any drama lesson, provides pupils with a controlled environment to face a moment of fear, which is to perform or present in front of others.” Whether a child wants to become a lawyer, business person, or doctor, most professions in the future will require confidence, public speaking, and diplomacy – all transferable skills that Drama helps pupils to hone. From his 14 years of experience as a teacher and Head of Drama, Mr. Rushton knows that the performing arts can help even the shyest of pupils become comfortable on stage as well as in their own skin.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, Drama is not just limited to physical performance. Speaking on the progression of learning outcomes in Drama at Brighton College Vietnam, Mr. Rushton explained: “With our youngest children, we start off with the simple ideas of play, characterisation, and rhythm – helping the pupils to first explore and develop their imaginations. By the start of senior school, we move on to stagecraft: the art of being on stage, as well as more technical aspects of theatre such as lighting and sound engineering to making props and designing costumes.” Finally, as pupils become more specialised in Year 9 and the IGCSEs, they get introduced to the critical analysis of plays, learning to dissect textual imagery, character development, and overarching themes. “The academic aspect of Drama is very similar to an English literature approach, studying the social, cultural, political and historical context of the text alongside thematic knowledge, but with the added lens of how you might act out a scene or direct the play yourself,” Mr. Rushton remarked. By the end of their Drama studies, pupils will be able to not only evaluate work from other playwrights, but also create their very own performances from ideation to execution.
Performing arts at Brighton College Vietnam are just as central to the holistic education of our pupils as traditional STEM subjects, and this is reflected clearly in our dedicated, state-of-the-art spaces for Drama and Dance. Our Performing Arts Studio in the Prep School is a bright and airy environment for our younger pupils to discover the joy of movement and theatrical performance. The room is equipped with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that allow children to become familiarised with their own body language and facial expressions, as well as special sprung floors that ensure pupils can jump and dance to their hearts’ content without injuring their still-developing bodies.
For more advanced Drama studies in the Senior School, the black-out Drama Studio can transform into an isolated stage in a blink of an eye. The studio’s professional lighting rig and audio-visual system can be utilised to create different moods and effects, bringing the pupils’ performances alive while blocking outside distractions for a fully immersive experience.
In the first academic year of Brighton College Vietnam, Mr. Rushton wants to “build a culture of drama within the school, so that pupils and parents can understand what drama is and what a good drama lesson looks like.” We have seen parts of this culture in the Year 9 performance at the Grand Opening, but this is only the beginning. Mr. Rushton and Mr. Canice, Director of Music, are working closely to hopefully put on 2 more performances by the end of first Semester. “We are looking at Jack and the Beanstalk for Key Stage 1, and Bah Humbug, a version of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol, for Key Stage 2,” Mr. Rushton shared. Let’s all look forward to the school’s winter performances to see our pupils embody the spirit of Drama!