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College hosts ‘Frantic Assembly’

Photo credit Frantic Assembly. Zach Fletcher, from Frantic Assembly, led the workshop with the students

A critically-acclaimed national contemporary theatre company has helped performing arts students to explore the world of physical theatre.

Frantic Assembly, described by The Times as ‘the most innovative and progressive theatre company around’, led two workshops with the college’s BTEC, A-Level and Foundation Degree Drama students on Tuesday.

The students, aged from 16 to 23, were taught a variety of physical theatre techniques to express different emotions during the three-hour workshops, which were held in the college’s new state-of-the-art Visual and Performing Arts building.

Foundation Degree Drama student, Ivan Hrncir, aged 23, said: “The workshop was truly inspiring and overall, amazing. It has been a fantastic opportunity for the students of the city to work with Frantic Assembly and, as a result, our physical theatre skills have greatly improved.”

Led by Frantic Assembly practitioner Zach Fletcher, the workshops helped the drama students to channel their natural body movements into storytelling form.

Zach – who joined the drama company through its Ignition training programme, a free project for young men offering employment routes into theatre – said: “It was great working with the students at Sunderland College this week.  It is a truly inspiring experience to collaborate with such a committed, thoughtful and talented group of young theatre makers. The level of engagement with our work from the students leaves me excited to see what these budding artists will have to offer in the future.”

Frantic Assembly, led by co-founder and artistic director Scott Graham, has a 20-year history of making and touring new works nationally and internationally.

The company has recently completed a national tour of their celebrated version of ‘Othello’ and are currently the Movement Directors of award-winning NT production ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ (West End, Broadway, UK & Ireland Tour).

Sunderland College has a long-standing relationship with Frantic Assembly, and the two organisations have previously collaborated through a performance workshop, and more recently, students travelled to Salford to watch the drama company perform ‘Othello’.

Gemma Whelam, a performing arts lecturer at Sunderland College, said: “We are delighted to welcome Frantic Assembly back to the college to work with the students in our new fabulous facilities. The students study the company and their work within their programmes of study and therefore it is an exciting opportunity to work with them directly. The workshop has enabled the students to develop their physical theatre skills in a professional setting.”

BTEC and Foundation Degree Drama students will be incorporating the techniques into their upcoming physical theatre performance on 20 January, which depicts the treatment of women who fraternised with German soldiers after the Second World War ended.

And A-Level drama students will be using these new skills for their practical exam pieces which take place in January.

Gemma added: “The workshops have really inspired the students to step outside of their comfort zones, allowing them to experiment with the different ways that movement can be used to tell a story, specifically learning new lifts and devising techniques. The work the students have created today has been beautiful and it will inform and develop the practical performances that they are currently working on.

“We are hoping to maintain and develop the relationship we have with the company using our theatre as a space for the company to work in and perform when in the North East.”

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