The Oxford School of Drama

Drama School Collaborators: OSD Alumni Join Forces to Impress Sir Kenneth Branagh

Three OSD drama school alumni collaborate on a new film
Libby Symons, Maire McGovern, Joshua Leese

We believe that Drama School is about more than just receiving outstanding training; a huge part of training is the people you train with and the connections that come out of our Collaborative curriculum last far longer than the length of your course. This week, we received some fantastic news that exemplifies our student’s commitment to collaboration.

Graduates Libby Symons and Joshua Leese, alongside Maire McGovern, recently had their short film Jehanne: a thing impossible accepted into the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Shakespeare Shorts competition.

Shakespeare Shorts is an annual short film competition hosted by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, with Sir Kenneth Branagh picking the final winners. This year, the competition is taking inspiration from the Trust’s multi-year theme, The Women Who Made Shakespeare, by seeking to celebrate projects from women and female-identifying creators of all ages and abilities worldwide.

In response to this theme, Jehanne: a thing impossible sits in the ‘Women Who Made Shakespeare’ category and follows a young Joan of Arc: –  

Scripted only by her own words, and the text of Henry VI part 1, ‘Jehanne: a thing impossible’ presents Joan of Arc at the beginning of her rise to power, and investigates how a young Shakespeare transforms her bold, inspired courage into his own world.”

Joshua and Libby co-directed the film and cast fellow OSD grad Maire as Jehanne. Maire speaks Joan of Arc’s letters in their original language, French, whilst Joshua plays Shakespeare and Libby provides a voice to Shakespeare’s Joan of Arc.

The story of how the trio met is a testament to the bonds of collaboration that are forged at OSD. Joshua is a graduate of the Three-Year Course, and it was during his final year at the school that he met Libby, who was at that time on the Foundation Course. The two remained in contact. Libby then returned to OSD in 2022 to complete the One-Year Course, where she met Maire, who was also on the One-Year Course. You can see their graduate profiles here: Libby, Joshua, Maire, and their spotlight profiles here: Libby, Joshua, Maire.

The trio will attend the Awards Ceremony on the 10th July, where the final winners will be announced. Libby, Joshua, Maire, break a leg! Everyone here at OSD will be cheering you on.

Beyond Jehanne: a thing impossible, all three of these wonderful grads have other projects worth checking out. Libby is currently filming for another short film titled Hope You Don’t Mind directed by Omar Elhanbouly. Joshua is appearing in a couple of amazing TV projects this month. You can catch him in D-Day: The Unheard Tapes on BBC2 and iPlayer, and We Were The Lucky Ones on Disney+. And Maire can be seen in Blood Bath, a new play opening at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe from the 29th – 31st of July.

Libby was kind enough to give us some behind the scenes images from the filming of Jehanne: a thing impossible. You can find the images, as well as a short interview with Libby, Joshua, and Maire, below. 

We spoke with Libby, Joshua, and Maire and asked them a couple of questions about what makes OSD so special.

You all have a common OSD connection; what is it about the school that forges such strong creative and personal relationships?

Joshua: My study at OSD (2012-15) under Principal George Peck was underpinned by the pursuit of excellence in technique and integrity of work; this flourishes when student actors are emotionally open, and intentional about their work with one another. This idea of working without ego builds creative trust, which then makes personal relationships stronger. 

Libby: Throughout your training you watch each other develop, you share in each others successes across year groups and this collaboration makes generous, pro-active and credible actors. I don’t believe this stops at graduation. Having been a part of OSD for the best part of a decade I’ve had the unique opportunity to forge collaborations across many years and watch the training adapt and change as well as see (and celebrate) the variety of work that graduates go on to make.

Maire: I think because the classes are so small and there’s so much trust and vulnerability in the spaces at OSD, you become so proud and so grateful for each other. It’s inevitably a very bonding experience and it’s such a joy to watch each other grow and change and become more empowered. Working with those who have been to OSD is knowing they have something of that shared experience which makes it so fun and so easy to work together.

How do you feel your training has helped you be self-reliant in your work?

Joshua: The school’s comprehensive syllabus gave us confidence in trying new processes and encouraged us in our curiosity as artists. The opportunities to direct, stage manage, design and compose music for projects has given me some of the knowledge and experience to become self-reliant in the industry.

Libby: The One Year Course offers a short period of time to make great progress. You’re offered, through rigorous training, many techniques and skills and it is up to you work out what works for you. This requirement to be independent, to do the work, fosters a confidence in your own practice. Eventually granting you the ability to focus on what is really exciting, creation.

Maire: For me, the training was the best year of my life and the hardest. The school encourages you to take responsibility for yourself and your work, which in turn makes you think about what work you want to see in the world. It fostered so much excitement about making or finding my own work rather than fear which gave me the power to take up space and understand that no one’s journey in this industry is linear, and you have far more control over your career than you’re led to believe.

What’s your fondest OSD memory?

Joshua: My fondest memories come from the extraordinary performances of songs and monologues during assessment weeks at the end of each term. It’s an incredible privilege when people share such honest and skilled work with one another.

Libby: It’s impossible to whittle it down to one so please excuse me three. Being granted the chance to do what I loved every single day, my very first auditions with David Sibley and Sara Houghton all those years ago and taking our final bows after showcase at Soho Theatre, filled with pride for myself, the year and what we had shared. 

Maire: Singing was such a favourite of mine too. I did ‘Dream Girl Evil’ by Florence and the Machine for my last song and performing it and watching the rest of my year’s songs after an incredible year together was such a wonderful culmination of all our work together and how far we’d come. We all definitely pushed the boat out for the last one which I’ll always be proud of.

Once again, congratulations, Libby, Joshua, and Maire! We can’t wait to hear how it all goes on the 10th.

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