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The evil that boys do: Lord of the Flies

A large cast drawn from across the year groups took on William Golding’s dark modern classic for this year’s School Play.

Lord of the Flies charts how a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island descend into murderous brutality as they attempt to self-govern.

Performed over two evenings in the Main School Hall, the production saw actors from Years 7-12 lifting the veil on the darkness that Golding saw lurking behind the façade of civilisation.

The play’s director, Gavin Molloy, from the London-based Rough Magicke drama school, praised the performance of the cast: “They engaged well and worked collaboratively to tell this dark tale of civilisation, human nature and barbarity.”

Headmaster Neil Enright also congratulated the boys: “This was an ambitious and impressive production. Drama offers our pupils valuable opportunities to develop attributes such as verbal confidence and self-assurance, while the experience of learning lines and stage directions strengthens mental faculties including concentration and information recall.”

The novel draws on the violence and brutality of war that Golding, then a young schoolteacher, saw while serving in the Royal Navy during World War II.

By the time the book was published in 1954, Golding was teaching English at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury; it is widely believed that the book’s main characters were based on his real-life pupils.

The book is also seen by many as a rejoinder to works such as R M Ballantyne’s 1858 novel, The Coral Island. Like Lord of the Flies, this features adolescents marooned on an island, yet while Ballantyne’s protagonists largely conquer the evil they encounter, in Golding’s work it is the evil which overcomes the boys.

The phrase ‘Lord of the Flies’ is a translation of the Biblical title ‘Baal=Zebub’ or ‘Beelzebub’, a Philistine god viewed in theological sources as a significant demonic figure, or even the devil himself.

Golding went on to write many other works, including plays, essays, short stories and poems, as well as other successful novels, including Pincher Martin (1956), which gives the thoughts of a drowning sailor, and The Spire (1964), about the building and near-collapse of a spire on a mediaeval cathedral.

His publishing success enabled him to resign his teaching post in 1961. He won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1979, the Booker in 1980 – for Rites of Passage, the first volume in his trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth – and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. In 1988, he was knighted. Golding died suddenly in 1993.

In addition to praising QE’s actors, Mr Molloy highlighted the contribution of the boys providing support to the production: “We are fortunate to have a highly skilled student technical team who have helped bring our nightmarish vision to life on the stage with their excellent visual effects.”

Over recent years, the School Play at QE has brought to life the writing of authors as diverse as H G Wells, J M Barrie, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The ‘blast of war’ blows again: QE draws national attention in Shakespeare Schools Festival

While the School’s actors impressed their local audience as they took on Henry V for a second consecutive year, at a national level the Shakespeare Schools Festival also turned the spotlight on QE as part of its 18th anniversary celebrations.

Year 13’s Rahil Shah, who took the title role, and QE’s now-retired former Drama Director Elaine White both featured as case studies in this year’s national Shakespeare Schools Festival programme booklet, with both praising the benefits of Shakespeare in shaping young people’s lives.

Following Mrs White’s retirement, for the first time the School’s production was delivered in partnership with the Rough Magicke drama school. Rough Magicke’s teacher, Gavin Molloy, prepared and directed the boys, from the initial day of auditions with 60 young hopefuls right through to the final performance at the ArtsDepot in Finchley with a cast of 30.

QE English teacher and Extra-Curricular Enrichment Tutor Micah King said: “Our Henry V was really moving – and particularly the battle scene between the English and French troops, performed in an emotional and visually stunning way with most of the cast on stage. I thought the students were a real credit to the School, and tribute should be paid to Gavin Molloy who worked exceptionally hard with the students to help them create a wonderful performance of Shakespeare.”

Supporting the cast was Year 12’s Arjun Patel, who was in charge of lighting and sound.

The other schools performing their abridged versions of plays on the same night at the ArtsDepot were Alexandra Park School, with Romeo and Juliet, Friern Barnet School, who took on Macbeth, and West Lea School, who performed The Tempest.

In the national programme, Rahil said: “The festival gives young people the opportunity to come together to be part of a cast and express themselves on stage, allowing them to build their confidence and be part of a team regardless of age, what they study and their other interests.

“Leading on from that, what is also important to stress is that SSF is not only for people that want to pursue the performing arts in the future as a career; it is for everyone.

“Personally, I hope to do computer science at university, but still appreciate the fact that SSF has allowed me to perform Shakespeare and take part in drama in my free time. It provides something different to my academic aspirations, and offers a balance that I think is both crucial and beneficial.”

For her part, Mrs White wrote: “I would have to say that my #BreakthroughShakespeare [an SSF hashtag for its 18th anniversary] moments are seeing young people overcome personal barriers to perform on stage. For instance, some students who initially lacked confidence in speaking were able to succeed in academic interviews. For others, the discipline of learning lines helped them with memorising, which in turn supported them with their studies. I’ve seen what a positive impact SSF has had on so many students that it would be difficult to single out just one!

“SSF to me means happy students…excitement and memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoyment which I know they take with them into student life.”

Boys have now begun rehearsals for next term’s School Play production of Lord of the Flies.

Back on top! Stapylton regain their title as QE’s leading House after a year of competition

Stapylton House are the winners of the 2017/18 House Cup – reclaiming the coveted trophy from last year’s champions, Underne.

Stapylton’s victory means this House has now won the trophy – formally the Eric Shearly Memorial Cup – for three of the last four years.

The triumph was announced at the end-of-year House assembly, where the cup was presented to House Captain Oliver Than-Lu and his Deputy, Omar Taymani, both from Year 12 (pictured above).

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations go to all Stapylton boys: this victory reflects their consistency of achievement in extra-curricular enrichment activities across the academic year, with the older boys’ efforts being boosted by a particularly strong Year 7 cohort. I trust that boys in other Houses will be inspired to redouble their efforts next year to challenge Stapylton for the crown.”

The assembly celebrated outstanding performances over a wide range of fields, including the performing arts, sport and charity work.

For this year’s House Drama competition, participants were challenged to produce original plays on the theme of a dystopian future: Leicester won the competition for the third consecutive year.

The House Music competition was won by Pearce.

In chess, the winners of various competitions were honoured, as were the boys chosen to receive junior, intermediate and senior colours.

Similarly, the assembly highlighted the names of boys who had won colours for music and sports.

There was a review of performances in sport throughout the year, including cricket, rugby, water polo, swimming and athletics. One innovation was the announcement of ‘teams of the year’ for cricket and rugby, which included leading performers from all year groups.

House charity fund-raising events during the year were celebrated, together with the work done to support the Sri Sathya Sai English Medium School in Kerala, India, with which QE has enjoyed a longstanding partnership.

Participation in The Duke of Edinburgh Award at QE remains strong: 100 boys from Year 10 enrolled for the bronze award in October and are due to complete their Qualifying Expedition in August, it was announced, while 34 Year 11 pupils signed up for the silver award and 18 Year 12 boys for the gold.

The assembly also recounted details of:

  • The various challenges run on a specially arranged House Afternoon
  • The QIQE quiz, which was by Stapylton
  • A number of House competitions run by the academic departments: these included, for example, a Languages competition to design a poster about a famous and influential linguist, which was won by Year 8 Stapylton pupil Jashwanth Parimi, and a photography competition for Years 7–9 run by the Geography department.
Happy at Harvard: Opportunities abound for Sahil at the Ivy League university

2016 leaver Sahil Handa has been reflecting on a packed first year at Harvard that has seen him embrace activities ranging from drama and dance to journalism and entrepreneurship.

The former School Vice-Captain, pictured above right with friends at the Harvard vs. Yale football match, decided to pursue a Liberal Arts degree at Harvard after being offered places at three Ivy League colleges. Sahil (OE 2009-2016) took up his place last September following a gap year.

“It has been an incredible year at Harvard and I am the happiest that I can ever remember being,” he says. “The university offered me more opportunities than I could ever have imagined; the people I met, the classes I took, and the adventures I enjoyed have made me extremely thankful for the chance to study in Boston.”

At School, Sahil was elected a drama director and also ran the QE dance club for four years. He has built significantly on this QE experience at Harvard: “I was the lead male actor in a play called JOGGING, which was performed eight times at the American Repertory Theatre and directed by professional director Melissa Nussbaum. The play is set in Beirut, deals with themes of religious violence, feminism, and motherhood, and involved me playing six different men at different stages of life. It was definitely the most intense (and rewarding) theatrical experience I’ve had so far; luckily, my mum was able to visit and watch!”

Sahil was a dancer and model for the Eleganza Fashion Show – a large charity event held in Harvard’s ice rink, which “involved lots of dancing, strutting and attitude!” – and was the Bollywood choreographer for Ghungroo, a South Asian cultural show, for which he created and taught a routine to 30 students who had never danced before.

His writing skills have rapidly attracted attention. He has won a place on the editorial board of Harvard’s renowned student newspaper, Harvard Crimson, and now writes articles for its opinion section. “I have recently been made a Harvard Writing Center Tutor,” he adds. “This is a paid part-time job reserved for undergraduates who have shown excellent writing capabilities during their time at the university, and it involves me helping undergraduate and graduate students who are struggling with an essay.” In addition, he took a workshop with Man Booker prize-shortlisted author Neel Mukherjee. “I have been writing a lot of fiction, particularly short stories,” he adds.

Sahil has also:

  • Devised, co-written and directed a student play;
  • Secured a position as a Freshman Arts Proctor (as the creative writing proctor) which means he will be helping those in the 2018 student intake who enrol in the week-long immersive Freshman Arts Program;
  • Recently founded the Harvard Centrist Society along with a few friends; “My role will be the Director of Speakers and Networking;”
  • Helped start a scheme called the Harvard Giving Pledge, which is attempting to convince all Harvard Students to commit to giving 1% of their income to charity;
  • Begun working for a fellow Harvard freshman’s start-up – a productivity app aimed at high school students;
  • Joined the Harvard Political Union, the main political debating organisation on campus.

Notwithstanding all these extra-curricular activities, his classes have been a highlight of the year, reports Sahil. “My favourite courses were High and Low in Post-war America – a tour of Post America’s cultural theory, art, poetry, literature, music, race relations, journalism and philosophy – and Early Modern Philosophy: Self and World –an introductory philosophy course that focused on metaphysics and epistemology. I’m looking likely to major in a combination of Philosophy, Psychology and English Literature, but I’m certainly enjoying the freedom that comes with being able to pick across all of the disciplines.”

During his first year at Harvard, he has taken a few trips with fellow students, which has served both to deepen friendships and to further his love of travel. These included a road trip & trekking expedition in Texas and a last-minute trip to Iceland a week before examinations, with Sahil and his fellow students taking advantage of $100 tickets and studying on the aeroplane to make sure their results did not suffer.

And after the final term ended last month, Sahil headed up to the famous tourist hotspot of Cape Cod to stay at the house of his best friend. “I actually met him on my gap year; we decided, along with a few other Harvard gap-year students, to backpack around Southeast Asia for two months as a group.”

Henry V: half-an-hour with energy and power

QE’s own ‘band of brothers’ – the School’s tightly knit group of senior actors – gave a powerful performance of Henry V at the 2017 Shakespeare Schools Festival.

A 23-strong cast, headed by Year 13’s Nicholas Pirabaharan in the title rôle, brought their abridged version of the history play to the ArtsDepot in North Finchley for the world’s largest youth drama festival.

Elaine White, who runs QE’s drama provision, said the ensemble had, as ever, coalesced well, with the older actors supporting the new Year 10 boys effectively as they all got to grips with Shakespeare’s account of events during the Hundred Years’ War before and after the 1415 Battle of Agincourt.

""“It can be difficult delivering Shakespearean language for the first time, but our boys learn quickly and always end that journey with a thorough understanding of their part,” said Mrs White. “Their storytelling became stronger and, by the big day the final piece was well-defined, with some solid performances.

""“The battle scene became one of their favourite scenes as it embodied powerful physicality and raw energy – quite daunting, especially when rehearsing in a small space!”

Mrs White added: “The SSF Venue Director, Jordana Golbourn, praised their careful choreography and the power of their performance, congratulating Year 13 pupil Mark Thomas as student Director.”

""Keenan Dieobi played the French king, while his fellow Year 13 pupils, Al-Fayad Qayyum and Mohit Miyanger, took the rôles of the Duke of Exeter and Fluellen respectively. Among the backstage support were 2016 leavers Miles Huglin, Shiras Patel and Alex Wingrave.

The audience included the Headmaster, Neil Enright, and a number of other staff.

Earlier this term, festival experts led a workshop for QE’s cast and crew to help them with their preparation.

 

Performed with panache: The 39 Steps is worthy swansong for QE’s Drama head

QE’s actors combined adventure with comedy in their fast-moving re-telling of John Buchan’s much-loved tale of espionage and danger, The 39 Steps.

The 2018 School Play involved a cast of almost 40 boys drawn from Years 7–13, supported by boys in directing and technical roles and by a team of composers and instrumentalists led by Director of Music Cheryl Horne.

The final night in the Main School Hall ended on an emotional note, as this was the last School Play for the production’s Director, Elaine White, who retires this summer. In addition to flowers, she received a tribute in the form of a book from QE actors past and present containing their memories of the many productions in which she has been involved.

""Headmaster Neil Enright, who watched the play alongside Chairman of Governors Barrie Martin MBE, said: “Elaine has been pivotal in making Drama once again a central part of the extra-curricular offer at QE; I am most grateful for her dedication and commitment over the years. She has brought great joy to QE’s young actors and to audiences alike.”

""“The 39 Steps was a fitting swansong. The production was very entertaining – it has been many years since I have laughed so much! – and highly memorable, too. It was also well-attended over the two nights. And perhaps most importantly, the boys involved seemed to thoroughly enjoy performing.

“Those playing the female roles did so with great conviction – dancing in high heels is no mean feat –while Year 9 boy Shivas Patel, who played Mrs McGarigle, spoke with a very convincing Scottish accent. I must also commend the performance of George Raynor, of Year 10, in the lead role of Hannay, who had a very large number of lines to learn and was involved in a good deal of the action.”

""The 39 Steps was among the first spy thrillers ever written. Its author, who was born in Scotland in 1875, had a remarkable life which included: helping in the re-structuring of South Africa following the Boer War; working as a literary adviser for a London publishing house, and serving in the First World War firstly in the Intelligence Corps and later in the Ministry of Information, while also working as a war correspondent for The Times. After the war, he became assistant director of the British news agency, Reuters, and was the Unionist Member of Parliament for the Scottish universities, 1927–35. In 1935 he was created Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield and also appointed Governor-General of Canada – a post he held until his death in 1940 from a cerebral thrombosis. Buchan wrote throughout his adult life.

Year 7 were treated to a matinee performance before the two public evening performances.

Gripping whodunnit wins House drama competition

Leicester House won the end-of-year drama competition with a compelling tale of below-stairs intrigue and the murder of an abusive master – all told in less than 10 minutes.

Each of QE’s six Houses created and performed a short piece entitled A London Mystery, which they had to base on a short extract of the play, Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette.

The performers were from Years 7-9, with the directors mainly from Year 10. They performed to the rest of Year 7 and a panel of staff judges.

Drama Co-ordinator Elaine White said: “I was delighted with the amount of effort and creativity that went into these performances. The boys had very limited adult input and had to learn a great deal about how to turn an idea into an end-product.

""“They came up with a broad range of plots, characters and c oncepts, from the disappearance of families from High Barnet station through to the theft of the Crown Jewels on the eve of the Coronation.

“The judges unanimously adjudged Leicester House to be the winners for a particularly praiseworthy performance of their murder mystery. The staging was simple, the dialogue clear and the acting strong: Leicester delivered a piece which gripped audience and judges alike.”

Leicester’s plot saw two servants becoming the prime suspects in the murder of their master. Two police inspectors ‘explained’ what had happened, giving motive, means and opportunity – yet each came up with a different version of events although based on the same evidence. The suspense was maintained until the end, when the denouement revealed that the cook was the culprit.

Stapylton were the runners-up, with Underne in third place.

""All the Houses had begun with a single-page stimulus document. This started with some brief tips – “Don’t include too many storylines or characters” – and simple instructions, including the 10-minute time limit. Further requirements were that the finished piece must: tell a well-defined story; include one piece of music, and feature one ‘freeze-frame’ moment.

The document featured brief stage directions from the 1899 Sherlock Holmes play, including the setting, “the drawing-room at Edelweiss Lodge, an old house, gloomy and decayed, situated in a l onely district in a little-frequented part of London”.

""Boys had to include the following lines of the play’s dialogue at some point in their piece:

‘Pardon, Sir, but one of the servants wishes to speak with you.’
‘I can’t spare the time now.’
‘A nice cup of tea.’

The Leicester House directors were Year 10 pupils Mahdin Choudhury, Maanav Patel and Ryan Ratnam. The actors were Aadarsh Khimasia, of Year 8, Arjun Nirmal (Year 7), Ayush Patel (Year 8), Shivas Patel (Year 8), Yuvann Sayandan (Year 9) and Ethan Solanki (Year 8).

The technical directors for all Houses’ performances were Thomas Mgbor and Hugh Westcott, both of Year 9.

Professionals help QE boys polish performance

Actors and crew preparing for their forthcoming performance of Henry V enjoyed an exclusive workshop with experts from the Shakespeare Schools Festival.

Usually two schools would take part in the workshop, but because the other school due to attend was unable to be there, the 26 QE pupils from Years 10-13 had the undivided attention of the SSF facilitators.

Mark Thomas, of Year 13, who is the student director, had prepared one scene from Henry V with the ensemble to present and work on with the SSF staff. Members of the crew enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the theatre technicians at the Arts Depot in North Finchley. And boys working towards their Trinity College Silver Arts Award also benefited from discussions with SSF professionals to discuss their own route into the arts. In addition, the boys worked on percussive sound and on battle cries to enhance the tension and passion of the scene.

“During the workshop, the facilitators looked at different aspects, including vocal delivery and physicality,” said Elaine White, the drama co-ordinator at QE. “They spent time developing the performance until it was really powerful and almost threatening. It was quite a thrill to watch the older boys working alongside the younger ones, sharing their knowledge and coaching them in performance.”

The Shakespeare Schools Foundation, which runs the annual festival, was set up to enable young people to perform in professional theatres. The foundation provides curriculum resources and workshops to help school children improve their literacy and develop their confidence and teamwork. In their mission statement, the foundation says it wants to show children that “Shakespeare is not just fun, it can also be terrifying, hilarious and deeply moving”. Its patrons include Jenny Agutter, Hugh Dennis and Ralph Fiennes.

QE’s final 30-minute, abridged performance of Henry V will take place as part of the festival at the Arts Depot in North Finchley on 20th November, at 7pm. Three other schools will also perform their own abridged versions of Shakespeare plays. Tickets are available from the Arts Depot.