On Saturday 2 February, the Sixth Form Drama students made the journey down to the west country and wilds of Cornwall for a research trip with a difference.
As part of the curriculum, Component 2 states that students must create a devised piece of theatre from a stimulus using a specific practitioner’s style and also write a 3,000-word working notebook covering their research, rationale and developmental process. Both Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth are using Kneehigh as their practitioner, a storytelling company based in Cornwall and who use the Cornish landscapes and people as a basis for their stories and storytelling. They also work by seven Principles and it was those principles that we also worked to over the two-day trip.
Concerned that the forecast snow might bring an abrupt halt to our planned weekend, we crossed our fingers and set off down the M5 – once we joined the A30 we were waiting to hit the snow blocked roads that the recent fall had left but what we saw was a pleasant surprise: empty roads and beautiful sunlit moorlands. After a brief hot chocolate stop at The Jamaica Inn, we continued on our journey to the ‘barn’, a farm house nestled in the woodlands of Redruth that would be our Kneehigh-style home for the next 48 hours.
Sunday was a packed day of touring various locations for our continued research. After a breakfast together, we drove to The Minack Theatre and walked around this beautiful creation nestled in the cliffside overlooking the stunning Porthcurno Beach. After some time on stage we hiked down the cliffside to the beach and began to play! Even a local seal popped its head up close to the shore to see what we were doing. Both Lower and Upper Sixth students, inspired by the sand, cliffs and the sound of the waves devised moments from their pieces and then hiked back up to the Minack Café for a traditional Cornish pasty. Next stop was Padstow, the location for the Lower Sixth devised piece and their adaptation of the legend of the mermaid.
Our evening meal was taken in the local pub and gave us more inspiration than we could have ever hoped for – we truly immersed ourselves with the locals of the village. We talked, sang, listened to stories and encapsulated some of the incredible characteristics of these wonderful and warm people. A late night was spent back at the barn where everyone took out their logbooks and wrote as much as they could about the day.
Our final morning started with a full cooked breakfast followed by a drive through a very misty morning to the castle and monument at Carn Brea. A clamber on the rocks of giants and breathing in the thick Cornish mist cleared our heads ready for our writing workshop. We were taught some tricks and methods of developing realistic characters who are the basis of any story, not the plot!
The weekend was magical and the eight students and two teachers have returned refreshed and full of ideas. Our pieces will now be crafted over the next couple of months and performed on 4 April in the Godfrey Brown Theatre. We look forward to performing these for you to see what this truly worthwhile trip has inspired.
In the words of Kneehigh themselves:
‘We are inspired by Cornwall and calmed by Cornwall. Here, we dedicate ourselves to thinking outside the constraints of fear and neurosis. We fight for our process and each other. We believe in the principles of play, generosity, vulnerability, ambition, bravery, anarchy and instinct. We profoundly believe that human beings are capable of anything and push ourselves to find new depths, new joys and new excitements in our relationship to our work and our audience.’