The Perse School

Work begins on new performing arts centre

8 Feb 2016

Construction of our major performing arts centre begins today.

The state-of-the-art 360 seat facility will host drama, music, dance, lectures, performance poetry, debating and assemblies when it opens in autumn 2017. It features full backstage facilities, enabling students to experience all aspects of staging a production, and a triple-height foyer incorporating exhibition space and a rehearsal studio.
The centre has been designed by architects Haworth Tompkins, winners of the 2014 RIBA Sterling Prize for Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. The development also includes a new Classics Department and a large open court with grass, trees and seating.

Head Ed Elliott explained:
“Confidence, creativity and communication are essential to an excellent education. We have long had a vision for a performing arts centre, an environment in which everyone – whether artist, scientist or mathematician – can develop self-expression and fluency. We are bringing this vision to life to mark our 400th anniversary.

“This is the most radical development at the School since its move to Hills Road in 1960. It places the performing arts at the heart of our site and school life. There are many ways to express yourself, and it is good for children to have chance to explore them all.”

The centre will be located at the Perse Upper, and will also be used by pupils at the Prep and Pelican. It will support the School’s outreach work, for example hosting physics workshops with the University of Cambridge for students from across the region, drama and dance taster sessions for children from local primary schools, and Perse Summer School activities, which are open to children from all schools.

Students at the Upper put on around nine productions each year and have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Pupils can join one of 15 performing arts clubs and societies, including a thriving technical theatre club. Alumni include actor Colin McFarlane, Commissioner Loeb in The Dark Knight and Batman Begins; Artistic Director Alastair Whatley; and Screenwriter Sam Baron, who received a Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts for The Science Of Love And Laughter.

Ed Elliott added:
“Drama has a strong tradition at The Perse. The celebrated Perse ‘Play Way’ tradition of learning through performing, created by Henry Caldwell Cook in the early 20th century, nurtured such eminent Perseans as the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Peter Hall. The old mummery where students improvised plays – based on an Elizabethan theatre – is fondly remembered to this day by many alumni. While the mummery itself has gone, its spirit lives on in our thriving formal and informal drama.”

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