An aspiring QE playwright’s coming-of-age story set in India was selected as one the best nine entries in a National Theatre writing competition.
As one of the shortlisted plays in the New Views competition, Year 10 pupil Adithya Raghuraman’s Train of Thought was given a rehearsed reading by professional actors at the National Theatre in London.
He had written the play during this School year, supported by a mentor playwright – in his case, Andrew Muir, a critically acclaimed writer for stage and screen – who visited QE to deliver workshops and to give Adithya personalised feedback and guidance.
Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Many congratulations to Adithya for a wonderful achievement. For someone as young as him to produce such a powerful piece of writing is truly astonishing – and for a student to have their work performed at the National Theatre is unprecedented in the School’s history.
“The play itself is an emotional tour de force – Adithya has a wonderful talent of being able to switch tone, moving from the comedic to the poignant to the reflective and finally to the uplifting. There is also great foresight in anticipating the transition from page to stage – when Adithya’s words were given life by a professional adult cast, it really allowed his talent at writing character and tone to be showcased”.
The New Views competition invites pupils aged 14-18 across the UK to submit 30-minute plays. More than 1,000 young people took part nationally this year, with just under 500 plays finally submitted.
“The competition gives students an opportunity to tell stories that are personal to them. From an English department point of view, it gives our QE students the opportunity to write creatively for a real purpose and a real audience, adding enormous value to their wider English education,” said Mr Hyland.
Before the actors gave their reading in front of an audience at the National Theatre, Adithya spent some time meeting with the director and producer, as well as attending a rehearsal with the actors.
His play was a philosophical and reflective story about a British-Indian teenager taking a train ride across southern India after his mother’s death, and the relationship he developed both with his father and with the country of India.
Adithya said: “Being shortlisted for New Views was an unforgettable experience. From the exhilarating moment Mr Hyland called me into his office to tell me the great news, to being able to watch a plethora of talented actors display awe-inspiring emotion as they completed the rehearsed reading, the entire process never failed to be exciting and rewarding.”
Writing the play had been “a fascinating and inspiring journey”, he said, with the final work and his success in the competition making it all well worth the effort.
“An important lesson I learnt was the importance of perspective – my perspective of the characters I had written about; my teacher’s perspective; the views of my director, and the expression of the actors as they empathised with Ashok [the main character] and stepped in the shoes of the characters they had to play.”
“The latter is a difficult task, but the way the actors embodied everything I had intended when writing the play, as well as adding in their own humour and incredible skill when portraying the characters, was something I will never forget.
Thanking Mr Hyland and the competition team for the opportunity, he added: “I look forward to writing more plays and stepping out of my comfort zone in English again in the future.”
Adithya’s mentor, Andrew Muir, has had plays produced throughout the UK and in recent years his work has been performed at the National Theatre’s Connections festival, at Soho Theatre and on the BBC. His assessment of Adithya’s play described it as “a joyous road trip of a story, in which both father and son are brought back together again following the devastating loss of their wife and mother respectively.
“A wonderful train journey from Mumbai to Chennai gives the boy, our central protagonist, an opportunity to get a better understanding about his homeland – the smells, the chaos, the colours and the language. The writer takes us on this journey with skill and delicacy, and…conveys the atmosphere of India with such depth that at times I felt that I was on that same train as Ashok, experiencing all those wonders of India for the first time also. Strong story-telling, atmospheric, witty and truthful. A young imagination at play here and it’s very good. Well done.”