12 December 2018
“Welcome to Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital.”
Birkenhead Sixth Form College’s 2018 drama production was one of the most daring, adventurous and ambitious performance undertakings that students have ever attempted, and to say that it was a resounding success would be an understatement.
Under the inspired creative direction of new Head of Performing Arts, Sian Murray, and Dance teacher, Kirsty Thornton, the College was transformed into Broadmoor – a psychiatric facility where the line between doctor and patient is becoming increasingly hazy.
Based on Sarah Kane’s play ‘Psychosis 4.48’, the production abandoned traditional theatre expectations and took the form of a promenade piece, with the audience starting seated in the Drama Studio but then being guided through the hallways and corridors of ‘Broadmoor’ by an accompanying ‘doctor’, seeing patients in their cells and coming face-to-face with sufferers of all manner of disturbed mental conditions.
Audience reaction was that of shock, terror and fright at the powerful performances of the students, which as director Sian explained, was exactly as the cast had wished.
Sian said: “The material the students were working with in Sarah Kane’s Psychosis 4.48 play is exceptionally deep, but we decided on the promenade style as we’re covering the work of Antoine Artaud. His particular style of theatre attacks the audiences senses and challenges the normal comforts of sight and sound.
“The doctor characters interact directly with the audience, and the patients speak to them in their sometimes frenzied states in darkened rooms. You can hear screams all around the corridors which is certainly unsettling for members of the audience but also transports them into the world of Broadmoor and what the patients, and doctors, endure.”
Although it was Sian’s first time directing a performance at the College, the feedback from visitors was astounding, but Sian was quick to praise everyone involved.
She said: “The students were incredible, especially when you consider that some are not even studying Dance or Drama and it was their first time performing. The commitment of the acting was there for everyone to see and the cast deserve all the positive recognition they’re getting. Some of the parents watching were deeply impressed but felt uncomfortable seeing their son or daughter perform to the level that they did, suffering from these conditions, but that’s a credit to the students’ acting and absolutely fulfils the purpose of the piece."
“I couldn’t have asked for more from the students.”
Before the promenade performance began, the students’ band gave skilful renditions of very well-selected songs, with haunting effect, followed by a dance routine from the College’s Evolve Dance Company.
Dance teacher Kirsty leads the group, which is also made up of students studying Dance and those that aren’t, but it put on full display the technique and hard work of the dancers through a contemporary, original and flawless routine, echoing the darkness surrounding the Broadmoor story.
Click here to read the College's Head of Film and Media Studies and former theatre director Bert Byron's glowing review of the production.