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: work began in early 2016 and the Centre opened in the spring of 2018.
In many ways this is the most radical development at the School since its move to Hills Road in 1960. It recognises that the performing arts help develop confidence, creativity and communication, and places them at the heart of our site and everyday school life. This 370-plus seat facility has many roles beyond a narrower definition of the ‘performing arts’: it plays host to drama, music and performance poetry, but also debating, lectures and assemblies. It features full backstage facilities, enabling students to experience all aspects of staging a production and building on the activities of our thriving Technical Theatre Club; a triple-height foyer incorporating exhibition space for art, technology and other shows; a coffee bar; and a rehearsal studio.
The development also includes a new Classics Department and a large court with trees and seating, which creates a welcoming and relaxing green space for pupils.
The idea has its roots in our history. 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 programmes, which have outgrown our lecture theatre.
Haworth Tompkins were our architects for the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre. Their performing arts work is extensive and includes: the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre at King Edward’s School, Birmingham; Everyman Theatre, Liverpool for which the firm won the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize; the Young Vic; Britten Studio and Jerwood Kiln Studio at Aldeburgh; the Royal Court; and the North Wall Theatre at St Edward’s School, Oxford. Haworth Tompkins are engaged on the redevelopment of both the Chichester Festival Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, and the masterplanning, extension and improvement of the National Theatre on the South Bank. Read more here.
For opportunities to support the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, including the chance to name a seat, please see the performing arts pages in our our alumni section.
Photo Credit: Phillip Vile