There is a Summer Play and a Winter Play. School Plays draw on the best acting talent throughout the School regardless of age. They aim to draw the School together around the shared experience of a great — or greatly entertaining — piece of theatre. The loose policy is to provide a student in his five years at Eton with the chance of seeing an example of most of the great theatrical genres: classic naturalism, high comedy, verse drama, classical drama, the musical, adaptations, modernism and the best contemporary work.
Productions are responsive to contemporary developments in the theatre. They tend to be large scale, as they seek to address large issues, as well as to make the fullest use of the talents available. It is important that the School Plays do not become the preserve of a single director and conscious efforts are made to develop directorial skills in the school to enable more theatrical voices to be heard. Budgets are on a par with those of comparable schools, although tickets are always free. Most productions play for three nights.
The Lower Boy Play
The Lower Boy Acting Group mounts one play a year, with a cast drawn from the first two years only. This is to give the younger students a chance to extend themselves. Technical support is given by younger members of the Stage Crew, for whom this is often an opportunity to take charge of their own work for the first time. Nevertheless these are School events attracting large audiences, and they draw on the best talents both on stage and behind the scenes that the age group can provide.
The School Play Festival
Independent Plays are those produced with the minimum of direct funding. There may be between two in a normal year, offering a mixture of established plays and original writing. Although a member of staff is always in overall charge, they tend to be more of an enabler than a producer, and a student is typically the director.
Technical support is given by the theatre staff and Stage Crew wherever possible, while help with directing, acting, and producing is always available — should it be wanted — from the Director of Drama. However the intention is to give students as much responsibility as possible for all aspects of the production, including directing, designing, technical operation and publicity, in order to fully develop their creative and managerial skills.
There are other opportunities for boys who are experimenting with dramatic writing to see their work in production as Independent Plays or in the House Drama Competition, and several masters are also practising playwrights. As a result there are usually two or three new plays in our annual repertoire, as well as new adaptations and translations.