COVID has made Drama very challenging over the last couple of years. Theatres all over the country went dark while television and film productions repeatedly made headlines as sets closed due to outbreaks and famous actors were sent into quarantine. It has been equally challenging in schools as pupils who enjoy Drama have had to rehearse work at a social distance and consider issues of hygiene when handling props and costumes. Pupils have had to perform work via audience-less live streams or turn to radio plays as they have adapted to this new world. In some ways, it’s been fun to rise to the challenge and we would never have achieved what we have had things been ‘normal’.

As things slowly get back to how we used to remember them, we have seen live theatre return and, here at Bradfield, we were fortunate to be able to stage the Michaelmas Play, Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo, in front of a live audience for the first time since 2019’s Yerma. The production ran for four performances and was directed by our Head of Drama, Nic Saunders.

In the same way COVID forced us all to adapt and innovate, so have building works at College and, due to the refurbishment taking place in the Music Hall putting nearby Old Gym out of action for Drama, Chapel became the venue for the play. It was the first time it has hosted a play since Romeo and Juliet five years ago. It was important that Chapel was more than just an attractive backdrop, it had to be central to the production and be a part of the experience so a play with religion at its core was chosen.

Brecht believed passionately that the individual should always speak up regardless of the consequences and in Life of Galileo he explores the conflict that often exists between free inquiry and official ideology. Brecht wrote the play against the backdrop of the Nazi regime during the Second World War and it is impossible not to see the parallels: ‘Do what is right however hard and let history be the judge’, he famously wrote.

With a cast of 24, the play was received favourably with many acknowledging how good it was to see pupils across the school working together again to create a production that challenged its audience whilst remaining accessible to all. With a sterling central performance from George (H) as the title character around which all others orbited, the play dramatises the experiences of famed mathematician Galileo as he tries to convince The Church of his latest discovery, that the Earth is not central to our galaxy, and the reaction he received. With strong performances from the entire cast, particular mention should also be made of Sophia (M) as Galileo’s daughter Virginia, Gabriel (H) as his student, Ludovico Marsili, and Matthew (E) as The Inquisitor.

The production featured stunning costumes by Claire O’Toole and live musical accompaniment by internationally renowned musician Yahir Avidor. Life of Galileo marked the welcome return of the Michaelmas Whole School Production and we look forward to more live theatre this year.