"When I return to Bolton School to talk to pupils about entrepreneurship, my message is to 'go for it'. This is an attitude that I had instilled in me during my time at the school where my curiosity was fuelled and I became interested in ideas."

Caroline Plumb - CEO of Fresh Minds and youngest woman on Management Today's '35 under 35' list

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Drama and Theatre Studies

Our approach to Drama stems from belief that the Performing Arts are of great benefit to the personal, social and academic development of our pupils. In a largely traditional academic environment, Drama allows a space for pupils to learn new practical and creative skills and, perhaps most importantly, to develop new kinds of understanding about trust, tolerance, confidence, empathy and compassion.  

In the Lower School, pupils follow Arts Award pathways to endorse the quality of their work. We work in partnership with our local theatre, the Octagon, to open opportunities for pupils to meet creative practitioners, observe work behind the scenes of a vibrant regional theatre and to enjoy live performances that directly pertain to their class projects. Lower School lessons explore the full range of practical and design skills including lighting, sound, script writing and set-design. 

We offer Drama at GCSE and Theatre Studies at Advanced Level, the latter is taught in conjunction with the Girls’ Division. Lessons take place in the McKellen Studio Theatre and the Girls’ Division Theatre and the approaches we teach reflect both the time-honoured and contemporary practices of a broad range of theatre practitioners and companies. The skills the subject fosters are taken very seriously by university admissions officers and employers. The latter, especially, value highly the creativity, good organisation, self-discipline, communication and presentation skills and ability to work in a team that the subject demands.  

The creative arts departments at Bolton School collaborate frequently, creating an exciting programme of events for our students, feeder schools and local community. We stage productions throughout the year, including musicals, straight plays and student directed and devised work. These events are open to the public; invitations are communicated with parents via email and advertised on the School’s various digital platforms. 

We recognise that an intrinsic value of creative arts subjects is the development of creative, imaginative, physical, emotional and intellectual capacities. As such, Drama also features within the School’s PSHE curriculum and House system activities. This year, Roughhouse, our theatre company in residence, will explore the topics of democracy, law and race with all our Lower School pupils. Pupils will generate material for and perform in a piece of theatre commissioned by the school. Pupils also explore the topics raised by our current shows in production, during form time. Examples of current form time activities can be found here.   

Lower School

Pupils in the Lower School follow Arts Award pathways and enjoy a thoroughly enriched curriculum due, not least, to our partnership work with the Octagon Theatre. Lessons focus on enjoyment, imaginative exploration, inclusive participation and exposure to a range of art forms and practitioners. We follow the tenets of the Arts Award programme: inspire, explore, create and share. We believe that providing a public audience for student work encourages boys to reach for high standards. All boys have multiple opportunities to perform for a live audience across their school career. Previous projects have included Year 7 page to stage work with a Roald Dahl focus and Shakespeare for Young Directors: a Year 8 project that produced a range of reduced Shakespearean Comedies, Histories and Late Plays. Lower School work is celebrated in our Drama Festival that takes place at the end of the academic year.  

Drama at GCSE

Bolton School pupils are fortunate to have wonderful facilities in which to study Drama. Boys are able to take performance and design pathways for GCSE. Most lessons take place in the McKellen Studio Theatre. The Studio is equipped with a good sound system; projection tools; an excellent stage lighting set-up – easy enough to use for beginners, yet with advanced capacities for aspiring lighting designers, and modular staging that allows reinvention of the space per the boys’ designs. Pupils also enjoy the use of a purpose-built theatre, housed in the Girls’ Division, and use of the School’s Arts Centre complex. Students also branch out in site-specific and promenade productions that take advantage of our magnificent School surrounds.

We follow the WJEC specification, a course that is delineated by three key components: devising theatre, performing theatre and interpreting theatre.  Boys create their own theatre informed by contemporary practitioners; perform from challenging scripts and watch and review live theatre.  

Theatre Studies at AS and A2

In the Sixth Form, we follow WJEC's Drama and Theatre Studies courses. Students can study AS and A2 in this subject. Similar to the GCSE course in format, focusses include practical exploration of a range of theatrical forms and close investigation of the roles of director, designer, performer and audience. Students devise original drama and interpret scripted drama through performance. The written examinations focus upon dramatic texts in context and performance. 

Extra-Curricular Drama

Pupils have pivotal involvement in the planning and delivery of the arts, including a hand in devising work for large scale theatrical productions. We offer a range of popular extra-curricular activities including Lower School Drama Club, Theatre Technology Club, Classical Drama Society and the opportunity to participate annually in our large scale Junior Production, Senior Production and two day Drama Festival. Our catalogue of work with professional creatives includes: ongoing partnership work with the Octagon Theatre, original composition and music technology for theatre with staff from the University of York; physical theatre and dance projects with Ludus Dance and Re:Bourne and whole school projects with our resident theatre company, Roughhouse.

Boys Division Drama students

Romeo and Mercutio in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Boys Division Drama students

GCSE pupils rehearse Journey's End by R. C. Sherriff

Boys Division Drama students

Boys often collaborate with the Girls' Division to produce stunning dramatic and musical productions. The above photo is from Doctor Faustus