13th February 24
A bright stage light illuminates the beaming face of Rachel, a Year 13 student at Claremont School, who has captured the intensely competitive spotlight of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Being accepted into RADA is a prestigious accomplishment, with thousands of applicants vying for only a handful of spots each year, and Rachel will be joining the ranks after finding out she has been successful in applying for a place.
Her acceptance into RADA’s Technical Theatre and Stage Management program marks a pivotal point in her academic journey, with a story that began with a Zoom call.
Joining Claremont’s Drama GCSE course during the COVID-19 lockdown, she wrote and delivered her first monologue virtually, taking her initial forays into the dramatic arts from the confines of her home. Sarah Cakebread, Head of Performing Arts, remembers it as “being beautiful”, whilst Rachel acknowledges it was an experience that pushed her out of her comfort zone.
A shy and unsure student at the start of her studies, Rachel didn’t expect the course to have the impact it did on her communication skills and confidence. Guided by her teachers and expert practitioners, she blossomed from a fledgling performer to a vital team player.
School productions have included the annual Shakespeare on the Lawn, various dance showcases, and recently The Importance of Being Earnest, a production which saw Rachel take up a purely crew responsibility and no acting role.
“It was really fun. There were two major scene changes and a crew of five of us, all making sure everything ran smoothly in our own jobs.” she explains. “I love being part of shows but not being in the spotlight. For this performance, we had to take down this huge library scene and turn it into gardens in just three minutes – all silently as someone was right there singing!”
This became her proving ground, and she thrived in it, displaying a blend of teamwork, precision, and an understanding of managing people and processes in a pressure-cooker environment.
Sarah explains, ”The A level Performance Courses that we run at Claremont make demands of a student’s communication skills; they have to be clear and open with each other in order to take ownership of the performance work produced for these courses, they have to work as part of a team whilst still knowing that their individual voices matter in these processes. It’s been the process of learning in a tight-knit group, along with the various nuances of stagecraft, that for Rachel “allows you to try ideas without feeling scared and to put the effort towards developing the ideas, both inside and outside of class.”
“Rachel has been fantastic”, says Sarah, “she is always taking on responsibility, whether in an actor/stage manager role, or sorting out something to do with someone’s costume or a scene change. A stage manager is all-seeing and I think Rachel, having experienced some of the scope of that role already, alongside the professionalism she has been immersed in, is well prepared for what’s ahead.”
Developing and honing her skills onstage and backstage in Claremont’s Performing Arts environment has made Rachel, “valuable in a marketplace and workplace, as it sets her apart, having the experience of being a stage manager but also a performer”. Understanding ‘where to next’ in the Performing Arts, requires very open dialogue with students and Rachel has clearly been impressive and proactive in how she has responded to those honest conversations.
Rachel has certainly made the most of the advice and encouragement from her teachers, and the belief of following that which you are most interested in and passionate about. Now there is an air of excitement in the department, and Sarah encapsulates this feeling of collective triumph; “it’s a big deal, not just to have been offered a place, but for Rachel to have had the confidence and the gusto to apply to RADA in the first place. That’s really, really exciting, and I’m massively proud of her.”
As we all are – well done Rachel and good luck!