'New Views' Trip to The National Theatre
On Wednesday the 10th of February, a group of intrepid Year 10 to 12 students braved the 3 hour train journey to London’s National Theatre. Described as a ‘musical like no other’, ‘wonder.land’ is a coming-of-age spectacle inspired by Lewis Carroll’s timeless ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ that explores the ever-expanding world of technology through a combination of dazzling digital effects, stunning costumes and world-class acting.
The reason behind the trip was our group’s participation in the New Views programme; the National Theatre’s annual playwriting competition for 15-19 year olds. Having attended weekly sessions with Miss Hadfield since October, in which we learned skills and techniques regarding playwriting, the objective was to produce a 30 minute script, which – if chosen as the winning entry – would be performed by a professional cast at the National Theatre itself. It was, therefore, the general consensus that a trip to London was entirely necessary.
On top of the spectacular performance, we were given the opportunity to have a guided tour of the National Theatre prior to the matinee showing. Amazed by the hundreds of different elements that went into producing such a spectacle, we witnessed the construction of sets; learned about the technicalities of special effects and explored an eclectic array of props, including an unnervingly realistic decapitated head. Following the tour, we were given (almost) free reign over the theatre, which resulted in the majority of us delving into the somewhat disorienting ‘wonder.land’ installation. Surely the most bizarre moment of the day was sitting attached to a simulator that allowed us to fall down a virtual rabbit hole, while a giant grinning cat sang and floated around above our heads. The actual performance was no less eccentric. Armchairs whizzed about the stage of their own accord; a 7-person caterpillar emerged out of a school toilet cubicle; and - most notably - a humungous rotating teapot shot glitter over the audience in what was a truly spectacular finale to the first act. However, the execution of the story itself was not compromised by the emphasis on special effects and stagecraft. The actors managed to make us laugh, sit back in amazement and even come close to tears in a particularly moving reprise of the protagonist Aly’s duet with her virtual alter-ego, Alice. As soon as the performance came to a close – despite being somewhat awe-struck and disoriented by what we had just seen – we dashed off to a Question and Answer session with one of the Assistant directors, Tinuke Craig. She was extremely inspiring, captivating us with stories of costume disasters, complicated choreography and the dramatic transformation of the play from its original script to what we had seen on the day. The session allowed us to gain an in-depth understanding of working in theatre and the art of playwriting – the primary reason behind the trip.
The end of the Q&A arrived all too quickly, and we made our way back to Paddington still dazzled by the events of the day. Exhausted – and reluctant to use our phones at the risk of falling prey to the dangers of virtual reality – we arrived back in Cheltenham feeling inspired to write our own masterpieces. I can say on behalf of all of us that the trip was an experience we will never forget.
Izzie Green (Y12)