Budding thespians from an Alnwick school have been battling not just with their lines, but each other, in rehearsals for their latest production.
The Duchess’s Community High School students are taking on the challenge of Cyrano de Bergerac, a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand based on the life of the celebrated poet and soldier in the French army.
Aside from being an outstanding duelist, Cyrano was known for having an extremely large nose, which caused him self-doubt and got in the way of wooing his distant cousin, Roxane.
Cast members have testing their swordsmanship in duels using real swords borrowed from Bob Brooks, of the Hotspur School of Defence, while they also have some tongue-twisting phases to learn.
The comedy is written entirely in verse and requires expert timing. It is an ambitious production, following in the footsteps of the recent roaring successes, such as Grease, The Crucible, Back to the 80s, Wuthering Heights and Return to the Forbidden Planet. But, as these behind-the-scenes pictures show, the youngsters are being put through their paces, practising for at least two hours after school and most of Sundays since the autumn term started.
Head of English and director Martin Allenby said: “I am very excited by the prospects of showcasing the excellent talent of the actors and actresses in our production of Cyrano De Bergerac. This year, it’s a comedy - we don’t do them very often but this year it fits nicely with the genre of comedy that we are studying at A-Level.
“Cyrano is a comedy of wit and physical theatre with lots of multi-rolling - girls playing men. Based on Rostrund’s French tale, it is a wonderful story of love and lost opportunities and should appeal to all kinds of local theatre-goers.
“This year, we are excited to be presenting a piece that also showcases the vocal talents of our actors, with the help of Amber Brown in creating some moving songs within the piece itself. We are very proud of our dramatic reputation and every new show brings a pressure to keep our standards very high.
“Once again, we are excited to continue to develop our excellent working relationship with the Playhouse. We are in the middle of our eight-week rehearsal schedule and everyone is working really hard to produce a show that will stand up well to our previous productions. We should be very proud of the young talent we have in our community and we hope people will come out in show week to laugh and perhaps cry at the story of Cyrano De Bergerac - swordsman, poet and raconteur!”
It is a hugely fulfilling experience for the students, as Hannah Lamb, who plays Sister Martha, explained: “The rehearsal process is intense and gruelling but so rewarding. Despite the long hours there isn’t anything else I’d rather spend my time doing. It’s so much fun and the massive feeling of achievement at the end is absolutely awesome.
Josie Donald, who plays Le Bret, said: “I’m new to the productions and there’s a lot of pressure to keep up a very high standard of performance, but this should be a great show!”
Ella Paul, from Year 10, is the youngest member of the cast and the only one not in sixth form. She said: “I strongly advise anyone who is interested in drama to get involved with the school productions because you will never have another teacher as dedicated as Mr Allenby, nor never get the same kind of thrill as when you’ve finished a show and you know you, the cast and absolutely everyone who’s involved has pulled it off together. It was absolutely nerve-racking walking into the first room with all the sixth formers and the teacher with the scariest reputation but everyone’s been absolutely amazing to me and I felt very welcome straight away. It sounds so cheesey but you know they’re the right kind of people who genuinely care about what they’re doing, what they’re achieving and other people.”
The Duchess’s High School production of Cyrano de Bergerac runs from Wednesday, November 5, to Friday, November 7, at Alnwick Playhouse, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £8, concs £7 and students/children £6. To book, call the box office on 01665 510785.
Tyler Angus: Cyrano de Bergerac
Daniel Thomassen: Christian de Neuvilliette
Erik Bagenal-Lowe: Count Antoine de Guiche
Josie Donald: Le Bret
Fynn Riseborough: Rageneau
Lindsay Manion: Roxane
Jess Field: Mother Margaret (Duenna/Cuigy/Carbonne)
Leonie Douglas: Sister Clare (Ligniere/Montfleury/Musketeer/1st Cadet)
Amy Barrett: Sister Teresa (Thief/Valvert/Lise/Clomire/3rd Cadet)
Hannah Lamb: Sister Martha (Busybody/Gremoine/1st Poet/2nd Cadet)
Kirsty Hensleigh: Sister Agnes (Brisaille/2nd Poet/Priest/Sentinel)
Ella Paul: Sister Rosa (Orange Girl/3rd Poet/4th Cadet)