News from the Cube!

With the news of lockdown restrictions being lifted next week we cannot wait to get back into our rehearsal venues in Hampton Hill and Twickenham to welcome students back.

We’ve been so impressed with all of our young actors during the on-line sessions and very much look forward to building on the work we’ve done so far throughout November.

We’ll be monitoring the news closely on Thursday and Friday to find out which tier the Richmond borough will be in, but we are confident that normal service will be resumed from early December.

We will be sending a reminder to all parents with details of extended class times where applicable.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their understanding and support over the past few weeks.

We very much look forward to seeing you all at the end of term when, all being well, we hope to share some of our work with a series of short performances.

Stay well!

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

Calling all young writers!

We have the pleasure of working with so many talented young performers each year but what other skills do they possess?

The Arts Richmond Young Writers Festival is once again underway and with only a few weeks until the submission deadline, now is the time to get writing!

The Festival is open to all young people who either live or attend school /clubs in Teddington, Twickenham, Hampton and anywhere else within the Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

It is a chance to demonstrate writing skills of any form: Stories, descriptive writing, poems, playlets, lyrics for songs-whatever the imagination can devise.

Entries are judged in four age groups with prizes for all winning entries.

In addition, Arts Richmond appoints a junior and senior laureate who will be given opportunities during the following year to write about events taking place in the borough, for possible publication.

All shortlisted entrants will be invited to a gala awards event in a prestigious venue in Spring 2021.

For further information and details of entry rules please visit the Arts Richmond website.

Deadline for entries is Friday 4th December 2020

Any Dramacube member wishing to enter will be fully supported by our team and will have the opportunity to try out their writing with other students if required.

Good luck!

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

Hello to all of our students and parents in Hampton, Teddington, Twickenham, Richmond, Isleworth, Kingston, Esher, Epsom and beyond!

With scripts going out this week, I glanced at our mailing list and was amazed how far our students travel to join us at Dramacube each week.

Forever trying to find positives in our current situation I took comfort in knowing that, for the next few weeks, those of you coming from further afield will at least save travel time and no doubt petrol costs.

The news of the latest lockdown measures on Wednesday evening came as no surprise but, if I may have a little moan, I still felt hugely frustrated that our students have been affected once again. It seems so many non-essential businesses have been given exemption from the rules, yet educational & creative services are once again badly hit.

On a more positive note, we have found a way forward and we are really excited about our Christmas projects.

Our younger group, who meet in Hampton Hill, will be embarking on a journey to Never Land where they’ll be meeting Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook and a host of other colourful characters.

Peter Pan has always been one of my favourite stories, and our production at Hampton Hill Theatre a couple of years ago was such a pleasure to work on. I’m sure Katie will have lots of exiting ideas to bring the classic adventure to life with her group on Saturday morning.

Our older students, some of whom have already started on their Christmas project, are working on an original script created by myself and Abbey.

We decided to start with an exercise to help students to really understand the importance of relationships between their characters. We had so much fun with it on Tuesday and Wednesday last week and this has now been developed into a script.

It is Christmas Eve and there is great concern that Santa will not visit those children who’ve been naughty throughout lockdown.

All the Christmas characters including, Rudolph, Olaf, Elsa, Scrooge and Mariah Carey, are meeting to discuss this most important issue.

The outcome of the meeting will be revealed in December when we perform at Hampton Hill Theatre but rest assured there will be much fun had, with Christmas songs and lots of jokes, in the build up towards our performance.

I have found myself saying this many times over the past six months but I must once again pay tribute to our students for their resilience and positivity which shines through no matter how many setbacks are thrown our way. We very much look forward to seeing everyone on Zoom starting this Saturday and welcoming you all back to our venues across the Richmond borough in a few weeks.

To all of our parents, I thank you for your ongoing support and we can’t wait to see you back in the Theatre this Christmas.

Wishing you a happy and healthy lockdown!

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

As the dark Covid-19 clouds hang dangerously low over our heads once again there is much doom and gloom about the months ahead so I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to all the positive happenings which have taken place over the past couple of weeks.

We ended the first half of the Autumn term with our Twickenham and Hampton Hill groups sharing their ghost stories on stage and performing to a live audience for the first time since December last year.

It was such a pleasure to see our students perform so well and to once again feel that buzz which only live performance brings.

That very same week our younger class who also meet in Hampton Hill shared some of their work in a delightful little performance based on Treasure Island which included a treasure hunt, meeting numerous pirates and slow-motion sword fighting.

Half term brought us another scary story, this time about a Witch, a Dog and a Ghost. Much fun was had, and children enjoyed working with our guest artist Hannah Calarco from Pep and Bear who opened the workshop with pumpkin making and balloon sculpting.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with all the children who attended the workshop, and very much enjoyed their performance on the afternoon of day 3.

 

I’ve also heard news of student Lottie Azurdia-latter making it through to round 2 of the Voice. Student Julia Montesanti will also be auditioning very soon. We wish both girls the very best of luck.

Finally, I wanted to share some news about Twickenham student Sophia Renahan.

Over lockdown Sophia started to teach herself ballet using some online tutorials and a weekly live class. A couple of weeks ago she went for a trial at Marble Hill Dance Studio and they’ve invited her to their Associate programme and she’s now on a vocational track to see if she has what it takes to dance professionally.

We are absolutely thrilled for Sophia and wish her every success.

Wishing you all well for the months ahead.

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

When we reopened our regular classes in September, we had no idea how long we’d get before another set back.

There were indeed numerous occasions when the gloom and doom seemed to be winning but here we are, in late October, having made it all the way to half term!

The journey hasn’t always been smooth, with many children off, taking precautionary self-isolation but having reached week six we were able to enjoy four wonderful performances on stage with a live audience and once again that Dramacube buzz was alive and kicking!

Students performed their chilling ghost story to socially distanced audiences in Twickenham and Hampton Hill, receiving rapturous applause and high praise for their efforts.

It was such a joy seeing our young actors filled with pride, excitement and a sense of achievement as they shared their work through acting, singing and dance.

My thanks to all who came along to support and give the children that wonderful feeling of live theatre.

Stay safe and have a very happy half term everyone!

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

When there’s something strange in the neighbourhood, who you gonna call?

I’m sure you are all just about old enough to remember the 80’s Supernatural Comedy Ghost Busters starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver.

With Halloween fast approaching there is of course much talk of ghosts and ghouls and all things spooky so it will come as no surprise that the famous soundtrack which undoubtedly added to the film’s success, has been blasted out in some of our recent classes.

Our term-time classes have resulted in students performing a ghost story of their own this week in Twickenham and Hampton Hill but as half term is almost upon us, we now turn our attentions to our three-day Halloween workshop.

The event is taking place at the United Reformed Church in Hampton Hill from Wednesday 28th to Friday 30th October.

Children participating will enjoy some fun scary stories, make masks and develop their own performance for parents to enjoy on the afternoon of day 3.

 

Despite being missing from the Dramacube calendar over the past couple of years, the excitement of Halloween has always made this one of our most enjoyable workshops, particularly with children taking part in a fancy-dress competition where prizes can be won!

At the time of writing this blog there were still a couple of places available so check out the details on our workshop page and join us “if you dare”.

Happy half term everyone!

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to the Dramacube Team who have all been amazing since lockdown was imposed back in March.

For the majority of Dramacube teachers, who work on a free-lance basis, all work ended with immediate effect as soon as schools closed.

The impact of lockdown measures saw many of the team return to their home towns with no option to come back until life returns to normal.

I’m pleased to say that we’ve now been able to bring many of our wonderful teachers back for different projects, but there has sadly been one huge gap among us with Director Matt Bunn still residing in Devon.

So, it seemed only appropriate that the Dramacube AGM was relocated to Exeter this year where we were able to catch up with Matt and finally present him with his Arts Richmond Swan Award for Best Youth Production.

Many of you will know Matt, particularly from our Twickenham casts and you will be pleased to hear that despite missing his London life terribly he’s doing really well.

Whilst Matt has been in the West country, he has been developing some new ideas for Dramacube as well as learning Spanish. Muy impresionante!

It was so lovely to see him and discuss ideas and we really hope to see him soon. There is a chance he may be able to join us for our October half term workshops in Hampton Hill but we’ll wait to hear on the Government announcement this evening before confirming anything.

My thanks and gratitude go to all of the team who have been so understanding and supportive throughout this challenging time and I cannot wait to return to a full Dramacube offering enabling everyone to come together again and do what we do best!

Wishing you all well as we head into the next phase.

Stephen Leslie

News from the Cube!

It has now been over six months since our production of Annie Jr. was pulled at the very last moment.

As difficult as it was at the time, we were comforted with the idea that this unprecedented scenario would soon be in the past and the show would soon be back on.

Who could have predicted how life would change?

Our initial thoughts focussed on performances over the summer holidays … then September once the schools went back … then after the October half term or perhaps even a Christmas show?

I think we’ve all learned enough now to know that planning anything comes with a high risk and with all the groundwork which goes into producing a show, there are many questions to be asked before making a commitment.

For those of you who read last week’s blog, you’ll know that I was hugely impressed with the efforts of the Troubadour Theatre, in Wembley Park, who successfully hosted a huge musical, starring former Dramacube student Jack Reynolds.

The efficiency and professionalism of the staff was exemplary and it gave me a great sense of hope that we could stage Annie Jr. sooner rather than later.

That very same week we were bombarded with headlines of gloom and doom and new restrictions imposed to help ‘stop the spread’.

So where does that leave us?

The Facts:

  • We now have permission to perform the show at Hampton Hill Theatre
  • A maximum audience capacity of 51 per show would be enforced
  • The show would be immediately cancelled if any member of the cast or crew were to contract Covid-19.

As much as we want to stage the show as soon as possible for our amazing young performers, we also have to take into account the journey they’ve been on and how further disappointment would be devastating for everyone.

Losing the show at such a late stage was emotionally draining but the financial impact was also huge.

We normally spend £10,000 to £12,000 on a production and breakeven with audiences of between 150 – 200 so a capacity of 50 would see us endure further losses which would not be sustainable.

We are exploring the option of switching to a larger theatre which would give us an audience of around 120 which may help with the finances however, it would not eradicate the risk of the show being cancelled if a member of the company became ill or if a further more stringent lockdown was imposed. I’m not sure I could endure that again!

Further discussions will continue with Hampton Hill Theatre this week as well as exploring other options, however at present I feel we are more likely to see Annie Jr. back on stage sometime between March and May next year.

With this in mind we may start to look at rehearsals again to help students remain in touch with their production.

Above all else the safety of our actors, team and you, our audience, remains a priority and we will need to be absolutely certain we are making the right decision before moving forward.

We would value your feedback and you can expect to receive a survey later this month. Please help us understand where you stand as this will play an important part in our decision-making process.

As always, thank you for your support.

Stay safe!

Stephen Leslie

News from The Cube

Hello to all of our active and non-active members and a particularly warm welcome to the many new families who have recently joined us.

My weekly blog aims to update you with the latest news about our students and what has been happening at Dramacube.

As we continue to make progress since Lock-down was lifted there is lots to talk about and we hope there will be many exciting stories to share with you over the coming weeks and months ahead.

There has been so much excitement after our Arts Richmond Swan Awards record win and my congratulations goes to all of our nominees and winners.

However, this week I wanted to tell you about my first trip back to the Theatre since everything closed in March.

I had the pleasure of being part of the socially-distanced audience for the very last performance of Sleepless, a new musical which was playing the Troubadour Theatre in Wembley Park, a venue I’d not previously visited.

The show, which was based on the 1993 movie, Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had been due to open in March, almost at the same time as our own production of Annie Jr. but was put on hold when the UK went into Lock-down.

The new rules around social distancing, sanitising and ‘bubble groups’ are confusing at best, so how 400 people would be safely guided into a theatre was a puzzle to me.

My first observation was how well set up the Theatre was, with four or five staff at the gate checking temperatures, helping guests to register using the QR code and carefully explaining what rules to follow once inside the foyer.

I’m told that every member of the cast and crew undertook a test for Covid-19 each day before being allowed to enter the theatre. Having experienced this rather unpleasant process myself, I have to say I admire their commitment!

We were swiftly ‘processed’ in a friendly and professional manner before entering a very large and spacious bar area where interval drinks could be pre-ordered to avoid unnecessary crowds building up.

Brightly coloured arrows were clearly marked out directing us to the toilets, which as you’d expect were appropriately set up to ensure a sufficient distance was maintained at all times.

Impressive Sleepless set

When entering the vast auditorium, which I believe can accommodate up to 2000 people I was immediately struck by the size and scale of this production with an impressive set which spanned around 30 or 40 meters across and boasted a large houseboat structure on a revolve, artistically lit with appropriately themed projections.

The production starred Pop sensations Jay McGuiness from boy band The Wanted and Kimberly Walsh from Girls Aloud but the real star of the show, I’m immensely proud to say was former Dramacube student Jack Reynolds who played the role of Jonah.

The show, which could be described as a play with great musical numbers opened on a sombre note at Maggie’s funeral.

Dealing with the loss of a Mother and Wife is no easy topic to explore on stage but it was done with sensitivity and courage, endearing Jonah and his Dad Sam to us from the very start.

For those of you who’ve seen the film, you’ll be familiar with what happens next but, in a nutshell, Jonah takes it upon himself to contact a radio station on Christmas Eve and Sam is “coerced” into sharing his story live on air which leads to a torrent of letters from women declaring their interest.

However, it is Annie Reed a reporter from Baltimore who hears the broadcast and falls in love with Sam.

Brilliantly played by Kimberly Walsh, the smart and determined Reed sets out to meet Sam, convincing herself this is a story she cannot miss, but in reality, she is driven by her emotions.

We are taken on roller coaster ride of highs and lows with the pair so close to formally meeting but it never quite materializes and just when you think the moment has passed Annie and Sam finally meet resulting in the happiest of happy endings.

The story is tied together by Jonah, played to perfection by the extraordinarily talented young Jack Reynolds. His natural charm, warmth and all-round talent was a joy to watch as he flitted from emotional trauma to extreme joy, lighting up the stage with the best musical number in the show.

The cast of eighteen was deep in experience and hugely talented, with every actor contributing so much. Stand out performances from Cory English as Sam’s best friend Rob and Tania Mathurn as Annie’s Editor Becky added further to the overall enjoyment of this production.

The tremendous effort made by the Theatre staff, technicians and performers was evident in every way, and this must be a leading example of how the industry moves forward.

I applaud not just the wonderful actors on stage, but everyone who made it possible for myself and 399 others to enjoy this wonderful show.

I sincerely hope that we see Sleepless lighting up a West End Stage when the industry gets back on its feet next year.

As always it is such a pleasure seeing former students doing so well but we are just as keen to hear about the achievements of our current members so please do share your news! We are particularly keen to hear about success stories within the performing arts at school, in local theatre or on the professional stage.

As we start to explore Dramacube shows returning to the theatre, I hope to provide you with an update next week on Annie Jr. and our plans for the remainder of 2020

Best wishes to you all.

Steve Leslie

Award Winner Anya Malinowska

Dramacube Scoop Four Awards!

The Arts Richmond Swan Awards may have been switched to a virtual event this year but there was still much anticipation, particularly at Dramacube where we received a record eight nominations including:

BEST BOY PERFORMER UNDER 14: Finn Bralow as Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz; Jamie Brinsden as Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz; Joseph Kirwan as Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz; BEST GIRL PERFORMER UNDER 14; Daisy Allen as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; Anya Malinowska as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; Sejal Khadakkar as Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz; BEST DESIGN ELEMENT; David Gates for Projections in The Wizard of Oz and BEST YOUTH PRODUCTION; The Wizard of Oz, Co-directed by Matthew Bunn and Stephen Leslie.

The virtual ceremony, which took place on Sunday 13th September was hosted by the Mayor of Richmond and as the

Award Winner Jamie Brinsden

7.00pm start approached the excitement built and with good reason as the first of the Youth Awards was announced.  “And the winner of the Best Girl Performer Under 14 is … Anya Malinowska for her performance as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz”

The first award was announced and we were delighted that it went to Dramacube student Anya Malinowska.

Next up was ‘Best Boy Performer Under 14’ “and the winner is … Jamie Brinsden for his performance as Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.”

Two awards in and we’d won them both!  Celebrations all round but next up was the award for Best Youth Production, an award we’d never previous won.

“And the winner of the Best Youth Production is …. Dramacube’s Wizard of Oz”

The awards kept coming and our final chance of winning another award was for Best Design Element.  For this, David Gates, one of our back stage creative team had been nominated for his projections in the Wizard of Oz.  “And the winner of Best Design Element is …. David Gates for Projections in The Wizard of Oz”

Four out of Four!  It was an amazing night for us and we were so thrilled that our talented young performers had been recognized for their brilliant show.

The judges see hundreds of children every year so being narrowed down to the final four is a great achievement and particular praise goes to Jamie Brinsden, Anya Malinowska, David Gates and all of our four Wizard of Oz casts who now have the honour of saying they were part of the Best Youth Production in the Richmond Borough.