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School play that went ahead in lockdown up for award

A Perthshire independent school has been announced as a finalist for a prestigious award.

Glenalmond Collage is the only Scottish school shortlisted in the performing arts category at the Independent School of the Year Awards 2021.

The school beat of competition from over 700 entries to earn the nomination.

It was one of very few schools in the UK to stage a play successfully in the midst of restrictions at the end of 2020, allowing pupils to experience fully being in a performance, while adhering to COVID-safety measures.

‘Epicene’, Ben Jonson’s 1609 Renaissance comedy, was painstakingly adapted to ensure it met COVID requirements by Glenalmond’s director of theatre Liz Moss.

The play was originally performed after a long period when Jacobean London theatres were closed due to the plague, so the timing of its Glenalmond revival chimed keenly with the present day.

Online auditions for the play started during remote learning in June 2020, when pupils from all year groups were assessed for the parts via Google Meet interviews with Mrs Moss, from Scotland to Italy to Thailand.

“We also wanted to adapt the play to make sure the production was really pacey and fun and absolutely relevant,” said Mrs Moss who created a surreal world, blending a Renaissance aesthetic with a 1980s New Romantic look and sound.

The script, acting and backstage ways of working were all adapted to meet social distancing constraints such as strict limits on the number of performers on the stage at any one time and to ensure COVID-safe year group bubbles were kept physically distanced at all times.

The play also embraced the subject of gender performance, with girls and boys playing both male and female roles.

Glenalmond’s artist in residence Christopher Moss produced a stunning set for the play while director of music Dr Tim Ridley arranged the music.

Congratulating staff, Dr Michael Alderson, head of Glenalmond College, said: “Drama, music and art are very much at the heart of life at Glenalmond and this award is recognition of our dedicated team of outstanding staff who consistently go the extra mile.”

During the year, Glenalmond’s staff brought numerous other musical productions to life and shared them online free of charge so everyone could enjoy them.

A performance by the Pipe Band on the banks of the River Almond featured in the successful Online Autumn Concert and the school also shared online its Remembrance Service, Candlelit Carol Service and Hogmanay Special.

The winners of each category will be announced during the Independent Schools of the Year Virtual Awards Ceremony to be held on Thursday, October 7 at 3pm.

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