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Famous alumni return to Oakham to celebrate 30 years of drama!

Published by Oakham School on Thursday 4th of December 2014

This weekend 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 (QET), as well as the drama that has taken place within it during this time. 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 of the members of the original cast.

The complexities of Tom Stoppard's script were handled masterfully by a gifted cast, who ensured that the audience were roaring with laughter at the puns and physical comedy that the play is known for. 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, as the play was a resounding success. 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, Will Kennard-Kettle and Sebastian Quinn, 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 left Oakham in 98) 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 (2008) who is back from touring the UK with West Side Story, and Nicholas Banks (05) who has just finished filming The Secret Service, a spy film starring Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson. He then introduced Lydia Bewley (03) who is well known for her parts in many TV comedies and The Inbetweeners movies, and Fiona Sheehan (02) 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 (96) who has worked at both the London Fringe and Edinburgh Festival and who has recently begun collaborating with fellow OO, Thomas Hescott (96), the next panellist to be introduced, a renowned writer and director. Finally, Miles welcomed the well-known and highly regarded actors, Matthew Macfadyen (92), Greg Hicks (71) and Richard Hope (71) to the stage.

The Q&A session offered a unique and fascinating hour-long insight in to the world of entertainment, with all members of the panel answering a range of questions from Oakham's 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.

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. For Thomas Hescott, it was the work ethic that Oakham had instilled in him as a student, thanks to the full timetable of lessons and extra-curricular activities, which he has found to really benefit him in his career. Matthew Baldwin described the wonderful atmosphere the staff at Oakham generated, and how there were a great deal of people who would spend time with you to teach you about the arts. He said, "It was such a wonderfully creative environment that set me up for always wanting to be engaged in that kind of life." The QET was also highly praised by the Q&A panel, with Lydia Bewley saying, "You guys are all so lucky to have this theatre it is epic!"

Many of the former pupils who attended the event had fond memories, or a special connection, with the theatre at Oakham. "There were seven decades of OOs represented at the event," says current OO President Guy Schanschieff MBE (84), who played a part in the original performance in 1984. He also said that the event was "an acknowledgement of the powerful influence that Drama has had on the lives of so many of Oakham's pupils through the years."

Famous alumni return to Oakham to celebrate 30 years of drama! - Photo 1Famous alumni return to Oakham to celebrate 30 years of drama! - Photo 2Famous alumni return to Oakham to celebrate 30 years of drama! - Photo 3
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