Long Live The King! (And I)

Another ground-breaking production at Drax’s West End this year of the all-time classic, The King and I. I trust that many of you reading this had the opportunity to make the time to come and watch this very well produced show on stage last week as a mammoth amount of effort was created across the school to make the show as fantastic as it was.

The production had taken months of planning, rehearsals and construction to put the show on. It was a chance for the thespians, musicians, the sparkies in the lighting department, hair and makeup girls and the handymen who helped build the set to all come together and work in unison to make sure the 350th Anniversary of the School be celebrated in style.

The on-stage cast was made up of an array of different skills and abilities and was a chance to enhance these even more. Our King of Siam, Nic Lee is one of our international pupils from Malaysia. He played the role with a huge amount of dedication as he had to learn hundreds of pages of lines which was hard enough, but to make it more of a challenge, he did so in his third language! With little experience on stage he stepped up to the mark and played the King with huge passion. Evangeline Barnby another major lead played the role of Anna, an English school-teacher trying to westernise Siam: another excellent performance from Evangeline. These are two stars to watch out for in future productions.

There was also a number of other lead roles taken on by a vast array of ages, Francesca Turton and Charlie Addy of Year 9 played the runaway lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim, Tom Scholefield playing the King’s son and Ben Abrams playing the son of Anna, both from Year 8. Daisy Speak in Year 10 played “head wife” to the King, Lady Thiang, the king’s preferred choice. Matthew Roberts from the Upper Sixth played Sir Edward, a pompous 19th century British Ambassador and finally myself as The Kralahome, a sort of Prime Minister, the King’s right-hand man you might say. Not forgetting also the amazing ballet performance led by two Year 11 girls, Steph Burrows and Philippa Musson who would give Billy Elliott a good run for his money. The huge amount of talent on the stage ascended even into the ranks of the teaching staff where we had some “celebrity” special appearances!

There wasn’t just hard work and talent on the stage, oh no! There was an unprecedented amount of work put in by the people who just “make things happen!” There was a team of young gentlemen including myself who with the guidance of Mrs Rothwell-Wood helped to bring Siam to Drax. We spent weeks designing and building elements of the set which included the main dais-cum-four poster bed-cum-bookcase-cum-boat design (you can imagine the design complexities of the blueprints for that one!). The A-team was devised of Max Hammell, Spencer Smith, Zain Kahn, Rory Ansdell and myself. Another crucial element of the show was the technical team. The sparkies were led by Jake Henry, our very own lighting expert and assisted by his younger apprentice Alex Rivett who was our professional spotlighter. Finally, Read School’s very own Health and Beauty therapists Ellie Williams, Charlotte Bielby and Jess Liddle who made us all look good!

As you can see, a huge amount of work, time and effort was crammed into this school production by the pupils. However, I haven’t forgotten the staff! The production could not have happened without the great work of the teachers; Miss Newman’s choreography expertise which helped create the brilliant ballet; Miss Williamson’s art skills, making the detailed props; Miss Gibbins on costume; Mr Moulson and the 250 pages of piano music; Mrs Rothwell-Wood constructing the stage and finally Mrs Maunsell, the superglue of the whole production.

A huge thank you to all staff from myself, mainly for the five years of plain attention-seeking on stage I’ve enjoyed and on behalf of the cast, another huge thank you!

Alfie Thomlinson