Drama is an integral part of English at Belfast Royal Academy as well as being a discrete subject at Key Stages 3 and 4. The opportunity to study Drama and Theatre at A Level gives pupils an excellent understanding of practitioners, playwrights and theatrical conventions.
The emphasis at Key Stage 3 is on improvisation and other dramatic activities that promote self-awareness and build self-confidence. Pupils explore a wide range of skills, developing their natural talents and learning how to implement these in performance.
At Key Stage 4, close textual study and performance gives GCSE pupils a deeper understanding of drama and enables them to critically evaluate their own performance in order to develop their skills.
At A Level, the academic nature of the course is combined with the opportunity to really explore in great detail aspects of theatre and performance that are of interest to the pupils. Learning is often achieved through practical exploration of texts and practitioners, promoting teamwork and experimentation with performance, direction and technical elements.
GCSE and A Level students must attend the theatre as part of their course, with visits to a range of performances organised each year.
All pupils study Drama in Form 2 and are introduced to the skills and techniques integral to the study of the subject. In Form 3 Drama is as an optional curriculum subject. Pupils are prepared more fully for the demands of the GCSE Drama course. They receive a grounding in a variety of styles and genres while exploring the history of theatre. They perform scenes from theatre texts and create a GCSE-styled devised performance, using a wide variety of stimulus material. A full range of rehearsal techniques and drama strategies are discussed and practised.
Pupils usually take on GCSE Drama on the understanding that they have already completed the Form 3 course, although exceptions may be made for those who express a genuine interest in studying the subject for the first time. The CCEA Drama syllabus is followed, with a current focus on Devised Performance and Scripted Performance. Controlled Assessment constitutes 60% of the pupil’s final mark. 40% is determined through an external examination which focuses on a set text, the study of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Pupils will have the opportunity to see productions throughout the two years.
A Level Drama and Theatre is a linear qualification with students examined at the end of the two-year course. The AQA specification is followed: a three hour written examination, worth 40% of the final mark, involves the study of two texts, Carlo Goldoni’s A Servant to Two Masters and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, as well as an exploration of Live Theatre Seen. 60% of the qualification is allocated by two practical components where students perform extracts from three published plays, and devise drama in a style of their choice. Performances must be influenced by a specified theatre practitioner or theatre company. A reflective report and working notebook are produced in support of the practical units.
There is a purpose-built drama studio in the Louis Lord building and a performance space on the Wingfield site. The Assembly Hall, with an impressive lighting and sound system, can also be used if a bigger space is needed.
To sustain and develop CEIAG, links have been created with the Lyric Theatre Creative Learning Department. Since 2018, the Academy’s Drama department has been a part of The Lyric Theatre's Schools Affiliation scheme. This allows students to access the theatre for tours and careers workshops, as well as opportunities to work with theatre practitioners in practical workshops. In addition to our official affiliation with the Lyric, local theatre companies, such as Bruiser Theatre Company and The Rainbow Factory, have been invited in to school to take workshops with students. Annually, Lower Sixth students attend A Day with Bruiser workshop at the Mac Theatre which includes a session dedicated to careers in the Performing Arts Industry. Additionally, through the Shared Education programme the department has teamed up with St Malachy’s College, Belfast organising trips and sharing resources.