The Need to Perform

For much of the year, what we do in class stays in class. The warm-ups, games, vocal and physical exercises, improvisations, scene studies, storytelling, and all the other work serves its own ends: it helps our students become more confident communicators and gives them opportunities for creative self-expression in a fun-filled and supportive environment.

However, a few times a year we ask our students to perform: to take the work outside of the class and show off what they have achieved. Every May they perform at the North London Festival of Speech and Drama. In December they perform in a LAMDA exam and then in our Christmas LAMDA showcase.

We realise that performance puts pressure on children and their parents. Even professional actors get nervous and sometimes tearful as a performance approaches. So why subject children to this experience?

First, because performing is fun! The nerves are only in the build-up. Waiting to go on stage is a bit like queuing for a water slide. The minute the performance gets under way, it nearly always becomes an exhilarating and joyous experience. Afterwards, young performers have a euphoric sense of achievement and an immediate desire to do it again. Some of our students show hardly any nerves, but even those who get very nervous enjoy performing once they get on the stage. We prepare our students well and make sure that they need have no worry about things going wrong. We foster a real sense of occasion so that a performance is something special and exciting.

Second, because life is not an endless rehearsal. Performance is a crucial aspect of drama, one that cannot be ignored. Drama performance gives us practice for all those times in life when we have to give an account of ourselves – answering granny’s endless questions, reading a poem in assembly, giving a talk in class, leading a seminar at university, selling ourselves at a job interview, and so on. People who have performed on stage in front of an audience tend to approach these real-life pressured situations with confidence and tend to express themselves with clarity and self-assurance.

Third, because performance gives focus to the drama we do in the studio. It is the time when we put our skills and our knowledge into practice, when all of our preparation pays off, and when our creative projects truly come to life.

The Playing Space is not a stage school. We do not ask our students to perform because we are training them to be perfect young actors. We use drama principally as a tool for self-development, and performance plays a central role in our ethos: to build confidence, improve self-expression, exercise the imagination… and have fun!