A huge congratulations to Upper Sixth Drama A Level students Barney Sayburn and Rob Wilding who completed their highly ambitious and creative Component 1 performance exam last week to a large and appreciative audience of friends and staff.  

Their original devised verbatim musical play, in the style of The Paper Birds, was centred around the 2023 Writers Guild of America Strike, and the challenges that artists face in an often contradictory and unfeeling political and financial climate. The Paper Birds is a devising theatre company, with a social and political agenda who are UK leaders in this field, and visited Trinity last year for a workshop with Rob and Barney. 

Rob and Barney’s writing was brought to life through their wonderful characterisation and improvisational skills, with one of the highlights of the performance being an impromptu musical Q&A with some delightfully disconcerted members of the audience!  

Through the means of musical theatre, cabaret, tango, ballet and the verbatim of some especially unyielding people on twitter, they hilariously explored the answer to the posed question of their titular piece What is Art?  

Rob Wilding says, “We never really had a solid name for the piece, but for the sake of clarity we settled on What is Art at the last minute, because this was the name of the first song in the piece and the overarching question that the play aimed to discuss. This came from our stimulus – an extract from a play called Apologia – which posed questions about the true motivations and integrity of art in a commercial society.  

“As a ‘Paper Birds’ piece, we needed a real-world issue or event to address which connected to the theme of art and commercialism. Then, conveniently, we found the current writer’s strike in America, which fit the bill. 

“The fun of devising is that you spend very little time behind a desk, instead you create theatre practically. We wrote some ideas for songs and dialogue over the summer holidays, then brought them to life in the studio, experimenting with different staging configurations and dance styles (a highlight of the process was definitely learning a twenty-second tango!). 

“I thought the final performance went extremely well; it was very uplifting to see so much work and time culminated in a single twenty-minute piece. The audience reviews were very positive, with the favourite song being We Really Like It (ironically). One of my personal highlights has got to be a well-executed stage punch from me to Barney. But overall, the biggest achievement of the final performance was that it made the audience laugh, empathise and think about the deeper ideas behind the question What is Art?” 

To quote one particularly rapturous spectator, “Well done, young sirs, well done!” 

Also pictured is our lovely Drama department volunteer, Miss Steele, who was the non-assessed candidate as there are only two Upper Sixth A Level Drama students. She said she “had a fab time”.

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