Perse Players Chariots of Fire production ‘a race worth running’
1 Apr 2019
Gifted Perse actors hit the ground running with four stunning performances of Chariots of Fire in the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre.
The Perse Players presented Mike Bartlett’s stage adaptation of the iconic 1981 film, which centred on real-life athletes Eric Liddell, a devout Christian who ran to glorify God, and Harold Abrahams, a Jew who ran as a way to overcome anti-Semitism, as they faced the challenge of the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
The stage adaptation was originally performed in the West End in 2012 to mark London’s hosting of the Olympics and The Perse was the first school since then to take on the ambitious task of mounting the production.
Perse Theatre Director in Residence Matt Hawksworth said: “I saw this production directed by Ed Hall (the son of Sir Peter Hall) and knew then I’d want to stage it one day, especially with a group of young people. Mike Bartlett’s adaptation draws on the film, but adds a few twists and turns in the way it’s sculpted, so it stands as a play in its own right. I wanted to choose something out of the box that had never been done in a school setting before. The Perse has a proud heritage in sport and theatre I wanted to put them together.”
The roles of Liddell and Abrahams were double cast with two students each alternating across the four performances. Notably, both roles featured a female actor as Heather Magowan (Year 11) shared the part of Liddell with Fabian Dodds (Year 11) and Jess Painter (Lower Sixth) played Abrahams along with Toby Owers (Year 10).
Mr Hawksworth explained: “In the drama department, we want all pupils irrespective of gender to have the chance to play great characters. This story isn’t about gender, it’s about faith, personal identification and the struggles people face no matter how they identify. I wanted the best people for the roles so when Toby, Fabian, Jess and Heather came along, I knew that they were the four best actors to tell this story. We also had male actors playing female roles and vice versa for the same reason.”
Matt also felt the Perse Players managed to capture the essence of Chariots of Fire with their bold presentation and praised the work of those both on stage and behind the scenes for helping bring it together over the last few months.
“The cast, crew and staff team were sensational and we were delighted with the response to the piece,” said Matt. “I felt as if everybody enjoyed the immersive and dynamic staging that we presented. There were a lot of very positive and kind responses about the pupils’ performances on stage and backstage. We hope we did Sir Peter Hall proud and also honoured the original movie and the West End production.
“It’s been a long time in the making with meticulous planning from all the members of staff involved, but I must say the atmosphere during production week was just joyful from beginning to end. In telling the story of these two remarkable men, it was a marathon not a sprint but it was a race worth running.”
For more photos from Chariots of Fire, click here.