Hannah McLeod, graduate of the One Year Course talks about the unforgettable experience of making a new play in her final term of the course in London.
“It was like nothing any of us had done before”
Hannah McLeod graduate of the one year course.
One of the highlights for students on the Three Year and One Year Acting Courses at The Oxford School of Drama is being part of the creation of a new play and production. Each year The Oxford School of Drama commissions two writers to produce a new script with its graduating students. For many of the students this will be their first experience of starting with an idea and a blank page and seeing it take shape with their input into a finished script and a full production rehearsed and performed in London.
Last year the One Year Course worked alongside British-Iraqi playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak (The Special Relationship, And Here I Am, Love, Bombs and Apples) on a new play called Sea Things which was directed by Hal Chambers and performed at Southwark Playhouse in London. Graduate Hannah McLeod talks about her memories of that experience…
London term for my year was dominated by Sea Things; a gloriously insane new play by Hassan Abdulrazzak which started out as an idea about climate refugees and ended up being about aliens coming out of the sea to take over the world.
It was like nothing any of us had done before. Hassan and our director, Hal Chambers, came to The Oxford School of Drama during our last term to meet us and start building the play. The basic idea of a fictional climate disaster in the near future developed and grew as we discussed our ideas. Outlines of characters were fleshed out as we improvised scenarios and built relationships. A lot of these improvisations ended up being in the final play almost word for word, so our individual voices really shone through.
Hassan took these workshopping sessions and made them into a script, which we read and fed back on a few times before the London term, and rehearsals, began.
The first day of London term was so exciting it was a bit of a blur. The courses are so intense it forces you to immediately get very close with everyone on the course. So, although we’d only been apart for a few weeks we were all ridiculously excited to see each other again and start working together on this mad play. Being all back together with Hal and Hassan in this new environment, outside of the bubble of the farm (and not wearing all black!) brought a new spark of energy, and it only took a couple of days for that rehearsal room in Elephant and Castle to feel like home.
As the play was completely new, and we were in the very fortunate position of having the writer in the room with us, lots of changes were made to the script as we made more discoveries and suggestions. Characters were moulded and storylines were developed as we made decisions about the world of the play.
A lot of time in the first weeks was spent world building; exploring the circumstances of the play and asking a lot of questions. How is the world different from ours? What does the camp they’re in look like? What do the aliens want? How do they move?
Peppered through the process we had acting classes in London with industry professionals as well as tutors from the school, which helped us to refocus and apply what we’d learnt throughout the course on this new project. As we moved into rehearsals we met with the designers of the show to let us see the bigger picture. We collaborated on costume design for our characters and even lighting design as we experimented with ways of setting scenes underwater or in a moving car.
The term flashed by and before we knew it we were performing at the Southwark Playhouse to packed out audiences, and then immediately into rehearsals for our showcase. It was a term of creativity and teamwork and breaking new ground, and it was an absolute blast.