Rugby drama students impress at world’s largest youth theatre festival

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121958001
Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121958001

Drama students impressed professional dramatists with their performance in the largest youth theatre festival in the world.

Harris Academy pupils from Years 8, 9 and 10 ‘loved’ performing in the annual National Theatre Connections Festival at the Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton on April 27.

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-122038001

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-122038001

The company of 29 students produced Lizzie Nunnery’s play The Snow Dragons in the competition along with 20 other young theatre companies from across the region.

Director and Harris head of performing arts Chris Browning was very pleased with how his pupils did.

“The students were professional and produced their best for this prestigious performance,” he said.

“There was an extra intensity and emotional commitment from the actors who gave every last effort they had.

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121810001

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121810001

“The directors and staff at the Royal and Derngate were brilliant and provided two workshops and as much pizza as the children could eat.”

Ahead of the Connections performance, the students put on three shows at Harris, including one in front of National Theatre director James Blakely at the start of April.

“This is a vibrant production of The Snow Dragons that embraces the way that the play invites you to create a playful, theatrical environment,” Mr Blakely said.

The Snow Dragons tells the story of children playing on the mountainside above their fjord village.

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121839001

Harris Academy drama students perform The Snow Dragons by Lizzie Nunnery at National Theatre's Connections Festival at Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton. Photo: Harris Academy NNL-170405-121839001

Nazis take the village and the children decide to stay up on the mountain and plan sabotage operations.

The students and Mr Browning decided to perform the play in the round as it ‘emphasises the performances of actors and the communal act of telling and hearing a story’.

The drama teacher could not be more proud of his students.

“It had an inclusive, democratic feel and the young people are motivated and enthusiastic about their role in the company, and in the show,” he said.

“They are a mutually supportive and well integrated group. It has the feel of a theatre company rather than a school group.”

Every year, the National Theatre commissions ten new plays for young people to perform in the Connections festival. Royal and Derngate hosted one of the 29 regional partner theatre festivals and Mr Browning hopes they will be chosen to perform at the National Theatre.

“‘Connections is the largest youth theatre festival in the world and the National Theatre not only provide a new play to produce and a visiting director to see the show but the opportunity to produce your show in a professional theatre,” he said.

“We hope we can go one step further and be selected to perform at the National Theatre itself in July.”