School Productions are a highlight of the calendar here at Durston House. Annually, there is a production created and performed by the Pre-Prep, the Junior School and the Year 8 pupils, each of which celebrates how truly capable Durston pupils are.
By having the opportunity to be involved in a production, on or off stage, pupils develop confidence, responsibility and team-work. Through playing a part, pupils develop empathy, stepping into someone else’s shoes, understanding how another person feels and the motivation for their or her actions. The ability to communicate clearly, engaging with the audience, in a self-assured manner cannot be underestimated. As part of the support crew, quick thinking and reliability are essential. These skills make for good team players, who know that a production is only as good as its weakest link.
Just before Christmas, the pupils in Pre-Prep entertain us with a festive show, which allows each pupil to perform on stage, singing and dancing, or for those in Year 2, the chance to act out the main parts. Parents and friends are always ‘wowed’ by the talent shown. A pupil’s experience and confidence grows in those years, and by Year 3, they are ready for the demands of the Junior School Production in the Spring Term. Here pupils are encouraged to audition for the main parts, so those who feel that their talents are suited to the stage get the opportunity to dazzle.
Recent shows have included Mary Poppins, The Lion King and Aladdin. A pupil’s final opportunity to tread the boards comes in Year 8, where their talents are really put to the test. These pupils, in the last part of their final year, are given a week to put together a production and are involved in all aspects of it, from programme design to props, lighting to sound, as well as taking to the stage. This challenge, at the end of their Durston journey, allows all pupils to showcase their talents and skills, showing all how truly capable they are.
In as much as all schools recognise the importance of the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development of pupils, Durston has, for many years, taken a pride in promoting all that is good and worthy with regard to the cultural practices of our country. The oral tradition of verse speaking is one such example; all pupils take part in the very popular Verse Speaking Competition, which is held during the week of the annual Durston House Literary Festival. Pupils choose their own poems and prepare to recite them to their English classes, in the first instance. Later, semi-finals are held before our finalists are chosen and the stage is set for a Verse Speaking Final, in front of the school. Confidence, clarity, humour, pathos – pupils are keen to demonstrate their proficiency in delivering a range of emotions in an event that is an eagerly anticipated feature of the school calendar.
The power of the word, the art of prosody, the delight in effectively taking possession of a small part of our literary heritage are potent reminders of what we seek to achieve when we engage with an enduring aspect of our culture.