LEADING WEST-END ACTORS PUT DRAMA STUDENTS THROUGH THEIR PACES
After recently seeing the West-End tour of Willy Russell’s ‘Blood Brothers’ at York Grand Opera House, 47 Year 10 and Year 11 GCSE Drama students relived the spirited lives of seven-year-old Liverpudlian characters. The students spent the day participating in a professional masterclass on the set text of Blood Brothers to support them in the written component of their GCSE Drama studies.
The masterclass was led by Mike Southern and Steve Palfreman who co-founded Stage-ed. Palfreman is one of the longest-running leading men in London’s West End with his renowned performance as ‘Mickey’ in the multi-award-winning musical Blood Brothers, which he portrayed for nearly two decades. Southern is known for his role of ‘Sammy’ in Blood Brothers in the West End which he played for ten years, as well as a year on the UK National tour.
Mike and Steve’s expertise of the students set text allowed them to explore the musical looking in depth at the character work and investigating the challenges presented to an actor when having to play various ages from seven-year-old upwards. Students were put through their paces when reading through an ensemble scene from the show and went on to block, rehearse, and finally perform the scene. The masterclass allowed students to block the beginning of the show to the ghostly, macabre feeling overture, to the changing the mood as we seamlessly went in to ‘Marilyn Monroe’ where the group livened the atmosphere to portray the drunk wedding guests.
Steve and Mike gave the students a light-hearted look at the Liverpool accent which allowed them to then try out their new ‘scouse’ tongue on Mickey’s ‘I wish I was our Sammy’ poem. The rest of the session allowed students to explore key scenes relating to the play, looking at the tension, suspense and comedy within the play.
The session finished with a question and answer opportunity that gave students the chance to ask what it is like appearing on a West End stage, how the audition process works, and what route is best to take when considering training in the industry. The session also allowed the actors to talk about their performance choices with a view to helping students on the exam paper.
Mr Birdsall, Drama teacher, said: “The students have really benefitted from the professional masterclass that was led so effortlessly by Mike and Steve from Stage-ed. The students have thoroughly enjoyed the process and it was lovely to see them practically engaging so much in a timeless text that they need to write about in their written exam at the end of the course.
“The students have been armed with a plethora of skills and techniques, as well as a greater confidence in their knowledge and understanding of Blood Brothers in terms of staging, direction, characterisation and a particular focus on vocalisation. They can now clearly relate between their practical exploration and how to successfully answer their exam questions due to the interactive and physical workshop, introducing them to the rehearsal process experienced by professional actors.
“Both staff and students, as well as the facilitators. have thoroughly enjoyed the day and we hope to see Stage-ed back in the near future.”