Oakham School welcomed back nearly 200 former pupils and famous alumni including Matthew Macfadyen, Greg Hicks, Richard Hope and Miles Jupp, to celebrate 30 years of show-stopping drama.
The event celebrated the 30th anniversary of the much-loved Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The day began with current pupils staging On The Razzle by Tom Stoppard, the first major production in the QET in June 1984. They performed in front of a packed audience of alumni, including almost all the members of the original cast.
The complexities of Tom Stoppard’s script were handled masterfully by a gifted cast, who ensured the audience were roaring with laughter.
Whilst many of the students were understandably nervous to be performing in front of such a star-studded audience, they certainly didn’t let it show. Indeed, the cast were highly praised for their performance by all, with renowned actor Richard Hope saying: “Every one of you has a gift.”
The production showcased some of Oakham’s brightest acting talent, with outstanding performances from Emily Atkinson, aged 16, Will Kennard-Kettle, 18, and Sebastian Quinn, 17, who all had powerful stage presences paired with an innate ability to make people laugh.
In the afternoon, attendees then had the opportunity to watch an ‘Under the Spotlight’ question and answer session featuring some of Oakham’s most famous alumni.
The panel was expertly hosted by Miles Jupp, who, along with considerable experience of stand-up comedy and acting, is certainly no stranger to playing a part in panel shows on TV.
He introduced the guests in ascending order of age starting with Katie Hall, who left Oakham in 2008, who is back from touring the UK with West Side Story, and Nicholas Banks, who has just finished filming The Secret Service, a spy film starring Colin Firth. He then introduced Lydia Bewley, who is well known for her parts in many TV comedies and The Inbetweeners movies, and Fiona Sheehan, who, as well as many theatre and screen credits to her name, has recently become the UK voice of Google.
Miles then presented two of his friends from his time at Oakham; Matthew Baldwin, who has worked at both the London Fringe and Edinburgh Festival and who has recently begun collaborating with fellow OO, Thomas Hescott, the next panellist to be introduced, a renowned writer and director. Finally, Miles welcomed the well-known and highly regarded actors, Matthew Macfadyen, Greg Hicks and Richard Hope to the stage.
The Q andA session offered a unique insight in to the world of entertainment, with members of the panel answering a range of questions from drama scholars.
As well as having the audience and themselves in stitches, they also managed to give some candid advice to Oakham’s budding actors. They debated the difficulties of period drama and Shakespeare, as well describing why they preferred the stage to the big screen. The audience even learnt which roles the panel had found to be most challenging and what skills they wished they could improve upon. Whilst Katie Hall admitted that being able to dance as well as sing would be helpful to her career in musical theatre, Matthew Macfadyen confessed that he wished he hadn’t lied about being able to horse ride!
They all took the time to describe how their time at Oakham had prepared them for their life on stage. Matthew Macfadyen told the audience that as he had been in 18 plays during his time at Oakham, he felt like he had a “back catalogue” when he started his career.
Many of the former pupils who attended the event had fond memories with the theatre at Oakham.
Headmaster Nigel Lashbrook concluded the day by thanking all those involved, as well as saying that he “felt incredibly proud of what the cast have achieved”.
He said: “It has been a wonderful day celebrating a significant landmark and the important contribution that theatre has made to life at Oakham over the years.”