The house lights dim and a hush falls over the audience. An eerie music fills the space. Then a green light suffuses the stage. We’re in a forest: plants and leaves carpet the ground. A cold mist drifts in, its fingers crawling into the space. Gradually, we make out some girls, dancing through the whiteness. Something magical has begun. A live event, a precise moment in time. One that will never, ever happen again in quite the same form. Your young students step onto the thrust stage that the production team has built in the school hall. The one that you and the students covered in living ferns, and moss, and twigs, and soil, just a few hours ago. And for a time, we are no longer in a school in West London in the late 1990’s, but instead living in the world of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, in the Massachusetts of 1692. A story unfolds, brought to life for us by young people on the verge of becoming adults. What a privilege to have been their director.
This is the Magic of Theatre: drama working alongside its bosom buddies music, art and dance. If you were ever in any doubt, you need only watch Danny Boyle’s majestic Olympics Opening Ceremony. How do you measure the ‘shiver down the spine’ that the arts can give you? How do you quantify the impact that the arts have on children’s lives? You can’t create a league table big enough for that. You can’t measure it through data and evidence. But the arts infuse our very world. That is, if you watch TV, read books, listen to music, go to concerts, have pictures on your walls, that kind of stuff. And yet we would hesitate to confirm the place of Drama and PE in our list of GCSEs? Call me over dramatic if you like, but I find that ridiculous for a creative nation.