Senior Play: Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward

a review by Hannah Bergmann, Fifth Form. Photographs by the Reverend Daniel Owen

November 10th, 11th, 12th 2022

As soon as the BSR was filled with pupils, teachers, and parents, you could feel the positive excitement and anticipation of the audience for the upcoming play, the first full production since 2019. The stage had been transformed into an old-fashioned-looking room waiting for the first actor to appear. When the lights were turned off and the first tunes of the music appeared the spotlight was directed onto the centre of the stage, making the audience curious about what was going to happen in the next two hours.

From flirtatious ghosts to flying cucumber sandwiches, it was all there. Blithe Spirit is about Charles Condomine, played by Nikolai Foster, whose ex-wife, the ghost Elvira, (Isabel Warnock) is conjured up by the experienced medium Madame Arcati (Phoebe Landseer). This evoked a very well-expressed jealousy in Ruth Condomine (Emily McCarthy) as the current wife of Mr. Condomine and Isabel, relishing the discomfort she has created coming back from the afterlife. What followed was a darkly funny competition between two women, one dead, one living.

The whole cast showed great acting skills from the catchy “Yes, Madam” of the maid Edith, played by Anna Naumenko, to Emily McCarthy who conveyed the emotions of Ruth very well so that the audience could feel how jealous and outraged she was. But especially Phoebe Landseer captivated the audience. The entire room seem to engage in the play by laughing at the jokes which showed that the whole evening was thoroughly entertaining. One moment everyone will remember is probably the scene where Madame Arcati threw a cucumber sandwich into the crowd which caused great amusement.  Nikolai Foster was a great fit for the central character of the play, Charles Condomine, because the audience could really feel his emotions such as the relief he presented in the end when both women disappeared

The visual aspect was provided by the fantastic costumes which transported the audience back to the 1940s in London. While the women were dressed in beautiful long dresses one of them an elegant black one, worn by Violet Bradman (Diana Doenhoff), the men were dressed up in noble suits such as the one worn by Lorne Walsh who played Dr George Bradman. Towards the end of the play a mysterious scene caught the crowd’s attention as the shutters of the background rattled fearfully. But who had opened and closed them? This will forever be a secret.

The whole performance was a great success and everyone noticed the effort that was put into the production of this entertaining and enjoyable play. Therefore, a big thank you goes out to the cast as well as Messrs Ronan Swift and Tristan Clarke who directed the whole play. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night! 

 

Charles Condomine: Nikolai Foster

Ruth Condomine: Emily McCarthy

Elvira Condomine: Isabel Warnock

Madame Arcati: Phoebe Landseer

George Bradman: Lorne Walsh

Violet Bradman: Diana Doenhoff

Edith: Anna Naumenko

Daphne: Alice McCarthy

Lighting and Sound: Messrs Julian Girdham and Ronan Swift

Backdrop: Ms Lynn Murphy, Ms Derarca Cullen and TY Pupils

Costumes: Ms Elaine Healy, Ms Megan Kilpatrick and Abbey Costume Hire

Props and Staging: Ms Elaine Healy, Ms Megan Kilpatrick and Abbey Costume Hire

Stage Hands: Alice McCarthy, Lexi Hunter and Josefien Hutchinson

Artwork: Georgia Goodbody

Directors: Messrs Ronan Swift and Tristan Clarke

 

The Form Plays returned to the BSR on the evening of Sunday October 16th in the tried and trusted double-bill format. The Form I play, directed by Mr. McCarthy and Mr Girdham, was Red Hot Cinders, a version (in verse) of the classic Cinderella tale. A cast of ten young thespians elicited gasps and laughter galore, mixed with pathos and tension, aided and abetted by a chorus of booers and hissers. There was magic and malice (fairy godmother and wicked stepmother), no expense was spared in the costume department (ah, the beautiful ugly sisters), and the dance sequences were executed with terpsichorean excellence (prince/fair lady and herald/guest). All was presented by two tip-top leathered comperes. And they all lived happily ever after. Bravo to all!

Form II offered us The Poe Plays, a series of modern adaptations of eerie Edgar Allan Poe stories set in secondary school surroundings. Messrs. Clarke and Swift directed and there was a nice balance between the slightly chilling and the downright hilarious. Scroll down for an album of photos from both performances with thanks to resident photographer Rev. Owen.

Meanwhile, this year’s Senior Play will be performed in the week that we return after half term. Continuing a theme of the seemingly supernatural Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit will be the first full senior offering since Grease in 2019. There’s a lot to achieve in a short space of time! 

As for other future plans, there will be a Junior Play in February with auditions on return after Christmas and before then no doubt some sort of Christmas Entertainment will be cobbled together as an end of term, feelgood send off. 

Sunday evening saw the special event that is Voices of Poetry return to the Big Schoolroom in its long-lasting and infallible format: a pupil or teacher reading a short poem after a brief explanation in a darkened room, picked out by a single spotlight. Some of these were in languages other than English: it is amazing how powerful such readings can be, even if you don’t understand the lines. The evening was organised by Mr Swift, and the presenter was Mr Girdham.

Marianne Lee from First Form opened proceedings, with her own evocative poem ‘The Witching Hour’, followed by Mr Jameson from the English Department with a translation of a poem by the Swedish Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer, ‘The Tree and the Sky‘.

The other languages kicked in: poems in Italian (Alexia Fantacci), German (Toni Ladanyi), Cecilia Corti (Arabic), Irish (Dairbhre Murray) and Chinese (Harry Wang). The aural contrasts were fascinating.

Mr Girdham then read out ‘Resistance’, recently written by the British Poet Laureate Simon Armitage in solidarity with all those under fire and bombardment in Ukraine, which led on naturally to Pavlo Shvalov reading a piece in Ukrainian celebrating his country’s independence.

Another step change was to Leonid Mylvaganam, who read out his own flowing work, close to performance poetry. Three European languages came next: Dutch (Josefien Hutchinson), French (Eole Mignot) and Spanish (Mateo Aliaga). Again, it was remarkable to hear the differences even though you can drive from one country to the next.

This year’s Junior Poetry Prize was won by Delia Brady, and her poem ‘The Moon‘ was read by Anna Rose McManus.  She was followed by the Warden, who said that from a young age at prep school he had to learn poems off by heart, and he recited G.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Donkey’.

Then, Slavic languages were represented by Polish (Dr Pyz) and Czech (Phoebe Landseer).

The next two poems brought us close to the end, with two people who are soon to leave the College: Ms Heidi Kavanagh (Yeats’s ‘When You are Old and Grey’) and the Senior Prefect, Evie Pringle, with Stevie Smith’s ‘In My Dreams‘.

And finally, Mr Canning announced the winner of this year’s Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry (pictured), Isabella Treacy, and read out a poem from her winning portfolio, ‘Knots‘.

To conclude, Mr Girdham recommended Pádraig Ó Tuama’s podcast Poetry Unbound: a short podcast twice a week on a single poem, with Ó Tuama’s reflections. It does what poetry should do for readers: provide a space for attention away from the busy noise of the world. And that is just what Voices of Poetry does too.

Congratulations to the following pupils on receipt of one of the Senior Art Prizes.
Senior Photography Prize.
‘Blurred Time Series’ by Alice Letort, Form V.
Senior Craft Prize.
‘Finite Infinity’ by Antonia Ladanyi, Form V.
Earl of Meath Art Prize, Senior.
Time and tide wait for no man’ by Georgia Goodbody, Form IV.

Yesterday afternoon, two Carol Services took place for the pupils and staff. While there was no congregational singing this year, those in attendance were treated to some wonderful performances from the various College choirs and musicians. A musical ensemble, Joshua Chan, Monty Walsh and Liam Campbell, played two beautiful instrumental pieces to open up the services which were followed by the Chamber Choir performing the haunting Irish carol Suantraí. The Sine Nomine choir sang a beautiful arrangement of the Coventry Carol along with a more traditional rendition of Joy to the World, while the Chapel Choir sang Three Kings. Finally, there was an organ solo (Il Dulci Jubilo) from Harry Powell, Form III.

You can watch the recording of the service below. Merry Christmas!

The last weekend of term featured another welcome artistic moment (following Matchbox Theatre on Friday evening). Mrs Malone-Brady put together a 40-minute concert which was shown twice, to keep audience sizes down, and it was a delight.

The evening opened with an instrumental group (Monty Walsh, Liam Campbell, and Joshua Chan), who performed ‘Legends of the Fall’ and the ‘Toreador Song’. Another instrumentalist, Kamilla Murphy, took over at the piano for ‘Novelette; following which Joshua returned on the violin with ‘Salut d’Amor’.

Tyrone Shi performed a guitar solo, and Marcus O’Connor sang ‘It’s beginning to look like Christmas’ in an appropriate garish jumper, with Emily McCarthy singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (all three had also been in Matchbox Theatre).

Antonius Kruse performed ‘Nocturne’ on the piano, and the evening was rounded off with ‘Last Christmas’ from Hugo Dunlop (guitar and voice), Tadgh Rane O Cianáin (piano) and Marcus on drums.

Many thanks to all. Photos of the evening by the Chaplain follow.

Last night in the Big Schoolroom there was a welcome return to the stage of Senior Drama, with a production of five of Michael Frayn’s (very) short plays in his book Matchbox Theatre. The production ran three times (for 30 minutes), to allow smallish audiences to see it, and they flanked the central performance space to watch 13 actors entertain them in works linked by themes of miscommunication.

Solomon Babajide was the Master of Ceremonies, introducing the plays: on the irritation of other people finishing your sentences, on constantly getting driving directions wrong, on two couples interacting spikily in a café, on the meaningless of most phone conversations, and on a couple trying to say goodbye to each other at an airport but being thwarted by the PA system.

Well done to all: it was a tonic to see pupils performing again. The directors were Mr Swift and Mr Girdham. See pre-performance photos below, taken by the Chaplain.

 

Finishing Touches

Her:   Emily McCarthy

Him:   Tyrone Shi

 

We Have Been Here Before

Driver:   Róisín Northcote

Passenger:   Phoebe Landseer

 

Prompts

Mrs Hazey:   Anna-Nibha Rospatt

Mr Hazey:   Nikolai Foster

Mrs Sharpe:   Gloria Rose

Mr Sharpe:   Florian Zitzmann

 

Between Cheese and Jam

Him:   Kim Guinness

Her:   Ebah Assebian

 

Bing Bong!

Announcer:   Iona Chavasse

Her:   Isabel Warnock

Him:   Marcus O’Connor

 

Crew: Alice Letort

 

 

As a small sign that things may slowly be returning to ‘normal’, the first BSR drama production for over a year took place on Thursday. It was to small, masked, socially-distanced audiences, with just two performers: Emily McCarthy as Vladimir and Isabel Warnock as Estragon in an excerpt from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. They put it on three times in the one evening

In many ways Godot is as pertinent as ever: depressingly, two people are stuck in one place, both intimate with and exasperated by the other, waiting for a change of circumstances that seems doomed never to arrive. But it is also full of humour, which was beautifully captured by the actors. Beckett is hard to perform, and certainly this is so for teenagers, but both Emily and Isabel, working off each other skilfully, captured the heart of Beckett’s vision. As a result both were awarded the two Drama Prizes 2021.

It was good to be back in the BSR for drama, and certainly for this intimate, absorbing experience.

The director was the Sub-Warden, the technical desk was run by Head of Drama Mr Swift, and the featured photograph is by the Chaplain.

 

Unfortunately this year we were unable to hold our annual Christmas Carol Service but music is very much alive and well within the College community. Over the past few weeks, the various choirs and musical groups within the community have been practising diligently and we are delighted to present this short film of carols (sung with the appropriate ‘distance’) and lessons.

The Chaplain’s opening blessing is followed by Once in Royal David’s City, sung by the Chapel Choir with an opening solo by Isabel Warnock, Form IV. Felix Jellett, Form I, reads the first of two lessons and this is followed by Sine Nomine singing Ding Dong Merrily on High. Our newly formed quartet perform a beautiful rendition of The Snowman before a choir of staff and pupils sing the German hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen. Senior Prefect Éile Ní Chíanáin then reads the second lesson which is followed by a small Transition Year choir performing Infant Lowly, Infant Holy. Emily McCarthy sings a haunting solo performance of the Irish carol Don Oiche Úd i mBeithil before the Chaplain’s final blessing. The video concludes with organist Patrice Keegan playing Bach’s In Dulci Jubilo. 

Many thanks to the pupils and staff who helped coordinate the video. We hope you enjoy it and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Throughout June, pupils have been challenged to recreate a famous work of art using the objects and people at home. It really captured the pupils’ imagination and the variety of submissions was amazing. The album below contains a large variety of the entries received. Well done to everyone involved!

The Form IV Art set had a busy Trinity term. Alice Letort explains the work they undertook over the past 6 weeks. 

The Form IV distance learning project this term was to create a ‘Virtual Wall of Tools’. The project comprised a number of steps. We started by learning the shape of tools by doing some blind line drawings as well as positive and negative space drawing. Then we studied Jim Dine, and his tool drawings before moving to the experimental printing section of the project. Jim Dine is an American Pop Artist. We were able to take inspiration from his black and white tool drawings. We all had great fun composing and printing the tools with shoe polish, paint, and any other material we could find at home!  Next, we started focusing on one tool by doing a detailed observational drawing. 

Now we were ready to start the final part of the project which lasted 2 weeks. It consisted of creating  3D tools with cardboard. We first had to plan the construction and then build them. It was a challenge to make the mechanism of the tools function but many of us achieved it. I created pruning shears in which the hinge fully functions!  When all of them were done, Ms Cullen created the ‘Virtual Tool Wall’.

I had a lot of fun this term trying all these new techniques, especially the experimental printing because I never practised it before. I also enjoyed building the 3D tool, it was fun and complex.

Our Sine Nomine choir are taking part in lots of international choir collaboration at the moment, and the latest track has just been released.

If you want your spirits lifted, listen to Andrea Baker leading the way with ‘Ain’t No Mountain’.

Form IV (Transition Year) Art pupils have been working on a portraiture-themed project throughout the Hilary Term. This began with a trip to the National Gallery of Ireland to see The Zurich Portrait Prize in late December. Pupils also researched a portrait artist of their choice and the range of artists chosen was wide and varied. This research, along with a number of drawing exercises, prompted and encouraged pupils through the concept and design phase of the creative process of portraiture. The pupils completed the final portrait in the medium of their choice. Enjoy the gallery below.

 

Members of the College “Virtual Alumni Choir” were on Scala Radio in the UK yesterday morning singing Vivaldi’s “Gloria” with Stay at Home Choir and members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Today they will begin the 2nd Stay at Home Choir project: “And So I Goes” by Billy Joel with The King Singers!

But what about our current pupils I hear you say? Well, Sine Nomine Competition Choir (pictured above at the recent Wesley Feis) members have been invited by Boston Children’s Chorus to collaborate with it and other choirs in a ‘Virtual Sing’ this weekend. They will sing a piece called “We Are One” by Brian Tate and they, and the College will be acknowledged for this contribution in a video. Incidentally, below are Sine Nomine members Tania Stokes and Josepha Westphalen receiving their 2nd place certificate at the Wesley Feis.

On Saturday the first rehearsal of the SCC Virtual Alumni Choir was held online, conducted by Mr McDonald. The choir intends to join the Stay at Home Choir will be learning and then performing singing Vivaldi’s great work Gloria. More to come…

On Sunday 1st March the late Christiaan Vis, former Head of Art at the College, was remembered in a celebratory event at Orlagh Estate. A large number of family, former colleagues, friends and former pupils attended.

Reverend Michael Heaney, former Chaplain at the College, thanked Hudia Vis and her family for inviting everyone, and then handed over to the Sub-Warden, Julian Girdham, who read out a series of comments from Old Columbans about the impact Chris had had on them: “His classes were the highlight of the week”, “His art classes to me meant freedom. Freedom of expression, to push boundaries, from the confines of the regulated SCC life”, “His sense of humour was wicked but kind”, “A great teacher, always honest and funny”, “An inspiration and a shepherd to me in my callow teenage years”, were typical of the comments.

Michael Heaney then read out a wonderful tribute from Tim Macey, former Warden (who could not be present), including these observations:
He was very respectful, welcoming and polite, yet I got the distinct impression that he was frequently having to suppress a little chuckle at the bizarre formalities of College life. In fact this ambiguity may have been at the heart of his great success as Art teacher at the College. He certainly had a great sense of humour and there must have been many occasions when it was badly needed.
and
He was wise and thoughtful, independent and sound in judgement, in every respect the mature senior member of staff, yet at any moment that impish teenager would reassert himself, to the amusement and enrichment of us all. I remember Chris with great respect as artist and teacher, with affection as colleague and with the warmest thanks for the laughter and colour that he brought into all our lives. To Hudia and to all those very close to him, I can barely begin to imagine your loss. I hope nevertheless that the warmth that we all feel in our memories of him, even those of us who did not know him really well, will stay with you always. He was a blessing to us all.

Michael Heaney followed up with prayers, and then there was a further tribute from OC Charlie Hackett, read out by artist Anthony Lyttle, and Chris’s daughter Grainne and son Leonard also spoke, thanking all for their kindness.

To get a good sense of Chris, check out the video interview below from the year 2000 by his colleague Morgan Dockrell, filmed by Garry Bannister.

 

The Playboy of the Western World is an ambitious play for Juniors to put on, set as it is in what is by now an alien culture for teenagers of the early 21st century, who have to speak in a language that is even more alien to them. However, Mr Jameson (who has himself performed in the play) is properly ambitious, and his cut-down version of John Millington Synge’s masterpiece told this memorable tale effectively in the BSR.

The bleakness of the Mayo shebeen was echoed in a bare set as Pegeen Mike (Daniela Nolan) opened the play showing her disdain for weedy Shawn Keogh (his personality embodied physically by Alex Hinde). The great moment when stranger Christy Mahon enters, nervous and quiet, claiming to have killed his father, was effectively played by Naoise Murray, and then built on by the locals played by Florian Zitzmann (Jimmy), Susan (Kate Higgins), Aedlagh Bradley-Brady (Nelly), Zofia Cannon-Brookes (Philly), Elizabeth Hart (Sara), Shannon Walker Kinsella (Honor) and pot-bellied Michael, Pegeen’s father (properly cheerful and self-centred as portrayed by Hal Somerville). Gradually Christy realises he is actually being seen as a hero striking back against authority, and, even better, Pegeen has an exciting alternative to Shawn Keogh. Naoise Murray conveyed this dawning discovery very well, and Emily McCarthy as the Widow Quin conveyed her own scepticism confidently. The cast was completed by Elliot Warnock as the Bell Man announcing Christy’s sporting success.

An even better moment is when Christy’s supposedly-dead father Old Mahon comes in, and Cameron McKinley brought renewed energy to the stage. Later, after he is ‘killed’ again, he repeated that entry crawling onto the stage, blood-spattered, head first, to the delight of the audience. The rest of the story played out as it should, with the audience divided between delight in Christy’s triumph and sympathy for Pegeen’s abandonment. Congratulations to all involved.

Photographs, below, by Daniel Owen.

 

Cast and Crew

Daniela Nolan: Pegeen Flaherty

Alex Hinde : Shawn Keogh

Hal Somerville: Michael James Flaherty

Florian Zitzmann: Jimmy

Zofia Cannon-Brookes: Philly

Naoise Murray: Christy Mahon

Emily McCarthy: The Widow Quin

Kate Higgins: Susan

Elizabeth Hart: Sara

Shannon Walker Kinsella: Honor

Aeladh Bradley-Brady: Nelly

Cameron McKinley: Old Mahon

Elliot Warnock: The Bell-Man

 

Production / direction: Evan Jameson and Humphrey Jones

Stage management, sound and lights: Ronan Swift

Set design: Derarca Cullen, Michael Keogh, Emma Hinde, Iona Chavasse, Avi Johnston, Edna Johnston

Costumes: Karen Hennessey

Make-up effects: Arizona Forde

 

Thanks to Donna and Ted Sherwood. 

The recent naming of the Art Centre as the ‘Patrick Scott Art School’ has provided great inspiration for Arts Week 2020. Arts Week organiser Mrs Cathy Boobbyer has teamed up with visual artist Yvonne McGuinness to plan an exciting week of events. From March 18th to 22nd there will be a number of artists visiting the College to carry out workshops with various year groups. There will be drama and music and there are plans for a collective art piece involving everyone!

Community Matters‘ will be the theme of the week. The College’s strong connection to Patrick Scott will anchor a number of the activities but there will also be an emphasis on our current community. Community is also the theme for the 2020 Art Prize brief. The brief has now been published and can be found here on firefly. Pupils can also get details on entering for the prize from Ms Cullen or Miss Murphy.

Preparation for the Art prize can begin immediately and entries must be submitted by March 19th.