RGS Five Star Drama – The Silence at the Song’s End
Summer 2016 saw Reigate Grammar School make their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a new staging of the book The Silence At The Song’s End.
The original is collated from the writings of Nicholas Heiney. Upon his death in 2006, his mother, Radio 4 broadcaster Libby Purves, discovered scattered about his room on bits of crumpled paper and post-it notes, his poems, sea-logs and journals. His life in 35,000 words. She, along with her husband Paul and daughter Rose, published the writings, which paint a portrait of an intelligent and funny man, struggling with the challenges of adolescence; growing up, university interviews, gap year activities and waiting tables. It’s a warm and personal account, which remains relevant and accessible for anyone who is setting out on the same journey.
The play version started life as a GCSE devised piece some years ago, but this year the Drama Department decided to take it further. Director of Drama Sarah Branston and new Director of Theatre Hugh Edwards collaborated for the first time to devise and produce a new version of the play ready to take to the largest arts festival in the world, and to compete with 30,000 other performances at the 2016 fringe.
Under the name ‘Really Good Stories Theatre Company’, the role of Nicholas was played by Cris Zaccarini, Chris Whyte, Olly Massey and Alex Pangalos, while former head girl Dannie Harris played Libby and Holly Bowling played Nicholas’ sister Rose. Max Hyner was the DSM and Hannah Joslin was the stage Manager. The first performance was arranged in Reigate as a preview, after only a few days rehearsal, to gauge how the story-telling was progressing. Libby and Rose attended this show and gave valuable feedback, taking part in a Q&A session with the cast, crew and an attentive and curious audience. Libby also wrote an article about Nicholas’ legacy, including the show, in The Times
From Reigate, the show travelled north of the border to its new home at The Emerald Theatre, Greenside, in the heart of Edinburgh’s South Bridge region. Here it was to be judged by paying audiences and critics alike – and it didn’t disappoint. The first two reviews talked of “an entertaining energy and enthusiasm”, “biting lucidity”, and “a superb performance”, with one urging audiences to “catch it while you can”. Audiences were strong on the back of these early reviews, and when Libby and her husband Paul came to see the show again in Edinburgh, the 90 seater venue was sold out. When she tweeted that she was “Proud to be associated with best school Fringe I’ve seen. Credit to terrific, honest performers”, it started to become clear that there was something special about this show. The next reviews published called it “beautiful, funny and completely moving, “simply genius”, “a gorgeous exploration of life” and “one of the best pieces of theatre you’ll see this Fringe.” The show was a hit and was seen by a judge from the National Student Drama Festival, who may select it for entry to the competition in 2017.
After the festival, the demand to see the show was high, so four additional performances were arranged at the RGS Drama Studio. These sold out, as did a charity gala performance at the Old Reigatians Rugby Club, which raised over £880 for mental health charities Calm and Beat.