Drama in the Sixth Form at MCS offers something for everyone, with a huge range of opportunities available for pupils of all ages.
The school enjoys exciting partnerships with the Oxford Playhouse and the Pegasus Theatre, giving access to impressive performance spaces and professional direction. During the course of the year MCS stages as many as twelve productions, some specific to certain year groups, others open to all; the underlying principle is that every pupil should be able to take part in two shows during the year. Usual highlights of the annual programme include a Greek play, a large-scale musical, various studio productions including an Edinburgh Fringe transfer, a mainstage production at Oxford Playhouse and an outdoor Shakespeare on the banks of the Cherwell. The aim is to expose pupils to a mixture of classic texts and new writing, and older pupils are encouraged to gain experience of directing, producing and even writing their own pieces of theatre. With an equal emphasis on enjoyment and quality, there is definitely something to suit all tastes and abilities.
The Drama department’s 2019 production of A Midsummer Nights Dream, lead by a cast of Upper Sixth pupils, was recently awarded five stars by The Oxford Times, who called the piece “utterly beautiful” and “a theatrical triumph.”
Through constant performance opportunities, LAMDA provision and our Theatre Academy, MCS aims to develop pupils’ stagecraft as well as their general confidence and collaborative skills. The MCS Theatre Academy was introduced in 2011 in tandem with two one-year residencies offered by the School and Oxford Playhouse to young professional directors and producers. These residents provide a professional edge to many of our productions, and Sixth-Formers benefit greatly from their expertise and advice as mentors, whether as actors or aspiring directors/producers.
Our resident professionals have gone on to have remarkably successful journeys in the theatre industry. Ellen Havard is Resident Director at the National Theatre, Alice Malin is Associate Director for ATC (Actors Touring Company), Rosie Banham (RSC and Lipsink) has just directed an acclaimed production at the Vaults Festival, Polly Tisdall directed the award-winning ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family’ (National Tour 2016/17) and Francesca Murray-Fuentes is Assistant Director on a commercial tour of ‘84 Charing Cross Road’. Zak Khan is on the production team at the National Theatre, Ashleigh Wheeler runs The Yard, Sam Julyan’s company is behind the recent celebrated productions of ‘Room’ and ‘No Villain’ and Ciara McCafferty is currently one of the prestigious Old Vic 12.
The Academy has also produced exceptional actors, several of whom stand poised to enter the profession:
‘It was whilst working with the Theatre Academy that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the Performing Arts; the opportunity to work with professional directors in professional venues has gone a long way to preparing me for acting at university and beyond – Hugh Tappin, Oxford University
Drama scholarships are available for boys and girls entering the Sixth Form, please click here for details.
"Magdalen College School actors triumph with innocent tale of love"The Oxford Times on A Midsummer Nights Dream (July 2019)
We perform a large amount of new writing, as much as half of the year’s programme in some years. In 2016 we premiered a new musical set during the Russian revolution, and our 2018 centenary commemorations for WWI were centred around a large-scale collaborative project between pupils and staff which resulted in an original stage production, Reflections. You can hear more about this extraordinary process here:
"The professional input was obvious - this was no normal school play - an absolute delight… A Triumph - performances worthy of a professional company"The Oxford Times on The Wind in the Willows (July 2016)
Major new musical adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan have graced the stage of the Oxford Playhouse, and our Edinburgh Fringe offering is often a piece of new writing by up-and-coming playwrights. Our 2017 Fringe production, The Runner, was shortlisted for an Amnesty prize and received a 5* review from the British Theatre Guide.
Two pieces of original writing by Sixth-Form pupils have been performed in recent Arts Festivals (Nightjars and Ferrari Steel), while there is usually at least one pupil-directed production in the year’s programme, not to mention the hotly-contested House Drama competition, which sees each house perform a fifteen-minute piece of theatre to a packed Big School.
All shows involve pupils on the technical and backstage crews, and MCS has recently set up a Technical Theatre Academy based at Pegasus Theatre to develop this side of the school’s provision. Our older pupils take full ownership over lighting and sound designs for our major productions, and gain invaluable experience from working alongside industry professionals at Oxford Playhouse and elsewhere. They also play a key role in mentoring younger pupils.
MCS is always keen to give pupils the chance to take their passion for drama in new directions, and we collaborate with various other departments on a number of projects through the year. 2018 saw a group of actors perform excerpts from Twelfth Night at an alumnus dinner in London’s Middle Temple Hall, the very space in which the play was originally premiered! The Drama staff are always looking for new challenges too, for example