Shell Plays 2015

Parents could have been forgiven for feeling somewhat disconcerted by this year’s Shell Plays on Sunday. As Lucy Maycock, Artistic Director of The North Wall, points out, ‘four Shells had been expelled in the first five plays, cyberbullying was rife, and countless pupils were tormented by the conflicting advice of good and bad angels.’ Given the theme of ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, it was possibly inevitable that difficult choices and occasionally hard-hitting material would feature. Lucy continues: ‘There were many memorable moments. For me, the stand-out performance was by Cosmo Habib in Apsley who was fantastic — he stayed in character throughout and delivered one of the best lines of the day: ‘Hashtag, Instagram moment!’- with near-hysterical excitement – which raised a cheer, as did the equally brilliant, sternly-delivered, ‘Never, ever, ever have unprotected prep’ — the latter from Alexander Koenig in Segar’s. Damola Otegbola also impressed in Segar’s ‘The world is a world of lies … and shells’, with his flawless entrance on an illuminated Segway. In Jubilee’s ‘Who knew school life would be so full of surprises?’, Neha Kurup gave a measured, grounded performance, and in Tilly’s ‘The best fake friend’, the complexities of friendship were explored; Sam Ward and Oli Healy were excellent. Corfe’s ‘A Mother’s words of wisdom’ made clever use of flashbacks as it delivered its strong moral message. Aniella Weinberger, as Mum, was clear and dignified, and Alana Wilson, her daughter, was touching. I thoroughly enjoyed the well-crafted antics in Mac’s ‘Kit Kat catastrophe’. The play was simple, but effective, and made excellent use of the Pink Panther theme as girls stealthily tiptoed across the stage. The giant Kit Kat held together with Velcro was inspired! Cowell’s ambitious play, ‘When it all goes bad’, tackled the difficult subject of the death penalty and the eventual suicide of Maxi Madrian’s character was a shocking denouement. Isaac Brennan in Sing’s ‘Cyberbully’ was surprisingly well dressed for his role as a heartbroken Mum (Where did it all go wrong ….?, she wails) struggling to come to terms with the behaviour of her son (played with feeling by Tristan Grell), and Ben Courtney-Guy in Kendall was a sharp-suited Jeremy Kyle. ‘Shakespeare Kyle Style’ made excellent use of the balcony, and ‘plants’ in the audience, and was peppered with a frighteningly plausible ‘street’ accent by Ollie Corbett. We were instantly transported to a parallel, graffiti-scarred St Edward’s in the opening scene of Oakthorpe’s ‘Don’t tell, you’ll regret it’. Fike Adebiyi and Alicia Bouaziz gave confident performances in this dramatic tale of rumour and counter-rumour. Rose Bourdillon was brilliant as Matilda in Avenue’s ‘Chics and geeks’ — in fact, all the ‘geeks’ were excellent. In another school-based play, Field’s ‘Mean boys’ were true to their title, with Valentin Horak giving a powerful performance as a new pupil struggling to come to terms with the social hierarchy. This play contained the ultimate put-down: ‘He spends at least £2,000 a year on hair products!’. Lucy and her fellow judges (the Warden; Neville Creed, Director of Cultural Activities; and James Percival, Hall Technician) awarded prizes as follows: Best Script, Segar’s; Best Direction, Tilly’s; Best Props and Technical, Kendall; Spirit of the Shell Plays Award, Sing’s; Runner-Up, Oakthorpe; and Best Play Overall, Apsley.

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