Built between 1927-1929 and opened in 1929, the Devonport Speech Hall is the school’s largest public entertainment space and as such is used for Main School Plays, Music Concerts, keynote lectures and public events. It is a flexible space with a varying format of staging and seating, and hosts the major musical and theatre productions of the school. It has a traditional proscenium arch, forestage and extensive technical infrastructure. Productions are also staged in non-conventional formats such as our immersive production of Alice in Wonderland; or Anna Karenina which is staged in traverse.
Built in 1991, the Vivian Cox Theatre is a 100-capacity studio theatre with a fixed-format thrust stage. Audience seating is tiered on three sides. An intimate playing space, the VCT has seen performances of Ibsen, Beckett and Pinter, hosts four House Plays each year and is the venue for the Junior Play, led by members of the Lower School in the Summer term. The VCT is also used by visiting theatre companies; for example, Temple Theatre’s recent touring production of Unmythable.
Below the Vivian Cox Theatre is a well-equipped and comfortable Green Room with adjacent dressing rooms, make-up facilities, prop and costume storage. During productions these spaces are a hive of activity and excitement as wardrobe, wigs and make-up are applied to the cast before their appearances on stage.
Up in the Drama Department, a small but well-equipped studio supports day-to-day academic Drama and Theatre Studies and hosts a range of Scripted and Devised pieces and their assessed performances. Converted in 2008, the Black Box has been the venue for some challenging and thought-provoking Verbatim Theatre projects; is home to much of our Devised Theatre work and is used for the development and understanding of a wide range of styles of theatre practise.
An extensive range of technical equipment equips the theatre spaces. In the Speech Hall, a comprehensive lighting rig is controlled by an ETC Ion console located in the control gallery. Two Allen & Heath digital sound consoles and a range of Mac computers enable sound control, running through a KV2 Audio sound system. The sound consoles are networked to the stage enabling multitrack live recording of concerts. In the studio theatre, wider use is made of LED fixtures and an ETC Congo lighting console in addition to a Mac-based show control computer. QLab show control software is extensively used for all productions. Students are given an introduction to all of these systems before being given an opportunity to specialise in a particular area of interest.
Following the completion of the new Humanities block (Van Hassalt) the Drama Department will be moving from its current location above the Quad down to the existing English corridor, who will relocate to the new building. This will site Drama closer to its spiritual and operational home by the Speech Hall/VCT complex. The existing utility storage will be replaced by a foyer space and facilities for the public will be improved. In time, the capacity of the Speech Hall will be increased by the addition of a mezzanine level and improved technical infrastructure.