Boyi, a Grade 11 Theatre student, takes us backstage on UWCSEA Dover's latest Grade 8 Drama production, Wrecked, a play by Christopher Craddock. Trigger Warning: This play deals with issues that may be triggering for some.
In “Wrecked,” three sets of characters weave in and out of each others’ storylines, offering insights into their encounters with alcohol and drug abuse.
Lyle and Buddy are two 16-year-olds dealing with their own curiosity about alcohol and drugs by putting together a video on the subject for a local contest.
Lyle is also coping with an alcoholic mother and the responsibility Lyle feels towards protecting Sidney, the 10-year-old sibling.
In another storyline, Sharon, mother to Lyle and Sidney, attempts to deal with family problems through alcohol and her relationship with a local bartender.
On Wednesday, 16 February, I dropped by the rehearsals of the Grade 8 drama production ‘Wrecked’. Scheduled to show on the 9 and 10 March, the cast and crew were deep into the production process. I walked into the Roy Bennett Theatre unnoticed: everyone was clustered on the stage around Wendy Ng, the teacher director, who was animatedly giving a pep-talk summarising that day’s agenda. Her speech was permeated by appreciative laughter from students and ended in applause, after which the cast split off into smaller groups on their own. It was then I caught Wendy and introduced myself; she was happy to hear I wanted to know more about the production, and we launched into conversation.
“The play is about addiction,” Wendy tells me, and in the play that manifests as alcoholism. When I ask if the themes won’t be a bit too mature for Grade 8 students, Wendy says she would not cast actors much older than this. “We are all addicted to something, video games, social media…”. It was a way for the students to approach and examine serious issues through the means of taking on another persona, exploration at once intimate and reflective.
“It puts a spotlight on us,” Wendy explains. “At the end of this, students can look at themselves and say, maybe I can relate to that too.” The play starts to transcend the script and gets taken up by everyone involved in the production.
“I have a very talented cast,” Wendy adds. She explains to me the small-group structure the rehearsals take on. The groups each work with a focus on individual scenes or dialogues, some with the help of High School student assistant directors, but many working independently. She points out a pair of students near us, who were double-cast, and are now going back and forth between themselves to explore their common character. Wendy emphasises the “creative freedom” in this process.
Each actor is different, and each has free reign to explore how their own nuances and energies can be adapted to their character.
I thank Wendy and move between the cast and crew on my own, observing. The passion everyone holds for the play can be felt, the glue of the cast visible, as students self-organise and give each other tips on stage directions and the reading of certain lines.
I ask student assistant director, Anika, how she came to be involved with the production. “Wendy is very open for everyone to see her process,” she says. Wendy had shared the opportunity with High School students, which is the first of its kind.
Anika is glad of the chance to get involved, as she doesn’t take Drama at IGCSE level but has always been interested. She shows me what she is working on: sound editing on her laptop. “It almost seems like a student-led initiative,” I offer, to which Anika responds with conviction, “Yes, it very much is.”
The play is “mature” and “different”, concludes Anika: “It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
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Huge Thanks to:
Chloe Tan, Karen Balthazaar, Sebastian Lee, Facilities, Security, Communications, the PE Department, and the Drama Department.
I enjoy working within an ensemble... actors performing in almost every scene, playing different characters, creating different moods and moments. This play also spoke to me, in its themes as it was written for a teen cast but, like all good plays, contains universal themes of community, communication and love. We were given explicit encouragement from Christopher Craddock, the playwright, to change or update references contained in the play. All these provide for exciting exploration and collaboration, which we celebrated at every rehearsal. The actors, directors and crew in this play have given their talents, ideas, energy and trust. I am supported by an amazing drama department, the wider UWCSEA Dover community…and you …family and friends who have cheered us on every step of the way…thank you for completing this ensemble.