Former Performing Arts Student Leo Bill Stars Alongside Tom Hardy in BBC’s Taboo

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts student Leo Bill appeared in the first episode of new BBC drama Taboo on Saturday night (07 January 2017).

Leo Bill studied A Level Drama Package at the College between 1996 and 1998 and stars alongside top Hollywood talent Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Peaky Blinders, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean) in the new series set in the early 1800s.

Leo has previously appeared in a number of acclaimed films and television series such as Alice in Wonderland, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Borgias, The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass and A Long Way Down.

After studying at the College Leo went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) graduating in 2001 before being awarded the Austin Texas Film Festival Best Actor Award in 2006.

Taboo is broadcast on BBC One on Saturdays at 9:15PM.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

College Students Enliven Education Conference with Show-Stopping Entertainment

Attendees of this year’s Association of Colleges’ Conference and Exhibition were treated to exceptional entertainment performed by Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

The students performed two extracts from their successful production of Hairspray, which was recently shown to the public in one of the College’s industry-standard theatres. The energetic performances demonstrated the students’ lyrical talent as they enlivened the evening with their enthusiasm and professionalism.

The event was held at the ICC in Birmingham and brought together senior leaders from the Further Education sector to learn, develop, support and exchange information. The conference combined keynote speakers and breakout sessions to inform, stimulate debate and provide the latest news on recent innovations in FE from senior figures in government, education and wider business sectors.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

Commenting on the experience, Ellen Hastings, 17 from Kenilworth, said: “The performance went really well – especially since we didn’t know exactly what the stage would look like until we got there! It’s always great to perform live as you get to see the reaction of the audience. To have another chance to perform something we’re so passionate about was amazing, and we got to show off the College’s talents as well.”

Assistant Head of Department for Performing Arts and Music Claire Morley attended the conference and was delighted to be accompanied by the Musical Theatre students. “I was extremely proud to bring the College’s students to such a high-profile event. They demonstrated the exceptional talents and boundless enthusiasm of our Performing Arts learners, and proved to be very worthy ambassadors for Stratford-upon-Avon College.”


Former Performing Arts Student Reece Bahia

College Graduate Prepares For a Thriller Performance

A former student at Stratford-upon-Avon-College has begun rehearsals for a major West End theatre performance having been cast in the musical Thriller Live.

Reece Bahia, 21 from Coventry, studied Musical Theatre at the College from 2012 to 2014 and will be performing songs such as Dirty Diana, Beat it and She’s Out of My Life as part of the production.

Over the moon at being cast in such a prestigious show, Reece said, “It is a huge honour to be cast in this production. When I was growing up, Michael Jackson was my biggest inspiration so to be able to celebrate his music is just perfect.”

Such on-stage success is a far cry from the future Reece was working towards just a few years ago when studying A Levels to pursue a career in dentistry. “I’ve always been passionate about music since an early age and I think I always knew it was what I wanted to do. I got to a point in my A Levels when I finally accepted this and decided to pursue it with all my heart.”

After joining the College’s Musical Theatre course, he never looked back. “I couldn’t recommend the Performing Arts department enough. The staff in the College gave me the confidence and skills to be able to pursue my dream. If you are thinking about taking up performing arts as a career then this is the place for you.”

Since graduating, Reece has secured modelling work as the face of Indian clothing company KOOVS, filmed commercials in India and Argentina, and performed in the leading role of a UK tour of the musical Laila. And with his latest role in Thriller Live, it seems dentistry’s loss is definitely musical theatre’s gain!

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College student Joseph Mawle

Former College Students Joseph Mawle and Tobias Menzies Star in Game of Thrones

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts students Joseph Mawle and Tobias Menzies reprised their roles last night in HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones (Episode 6 of season 6 ‘Blood of my Blood‘).

Actor Joseph Mawle studied a national diploma in performing arts at the College between 1990 and 1992 whereas actor Tobias Menzies studied on a ‘Year out Drama’ course between 1993 and 1994.

Cast as the uncles of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the other Stark children both Benjen Stark (Mawle) and Edmure Tully (Menzies) returned to the show in an unexpected reveal.

Both Jospeh and Tobias have previously appeared in a number of acclaimed TV series such as the BBC’s The Passion and Ripper Street (Mawle), and HBO’s Rome and Starz’s Outlander (Menzies).

Game of Thrones is broadcast on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9PM.

Dance Students

Local Dance Students Through To Choreography Challenge Final

Dance students from Stratford-upon-Avon College have made it through to the final performance of a newly-launched national dance choreography challenge. ‘Rambert Elements’, introduced this academic year by the world-renowned Rambert dance company, is a challenge designed to raise the profile of choreography in secondary schools and colleges across the UK.

Six regional performances took place earlier this year, with one group from each being invited to perform at the national finals. Having been chosen winners of the Midlands heat at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on 29 February, the Stratford students will now compete in the 2016 National Showcase in London on Tuesday 28 June, where they will be accompanied by the Rambert Orchestra.

Level 3 Dance student Hannah Medley, 16 from Coventry, commented: “I literally screamed when I found out we were through to the final. It’s one of my dreams to perform in the West End and now it’s going to happen. It’s overwhelming – a once in a lifetime opportunity. The other groups were really good but I was so pleased with our choreography. We obviously had what Rambert were looking for!”

The aim of ‘Rambert Elements’ is to give students the chance to create and perform an original dance piece with help from Rambert’s leading choreographers, who produced ‘toolkits’ for the participating groups. Each toolkit contained ideas including a theme – complete with title and suggested sources of inspiration – a piece of music, sequences of movement demonstrated by Rambert dancers and some helpful tips from the Rambert choreographer.

Further guidance was provided at a skills weekend, held last October at Rambert’s South Bank studios, which was attended by dance teachers from the participating schools and colleges and included master classes with the choreographers who created the toolkits.

Level 3 Dance student Taylor Leigh, 18 from Coventry, said “I was flabbergasted when I found out we had made it to the final. It’s really nice to be recognised. I’m still gobsmacked! I didn’t think it would happen – I guess hard work really does pay off. We’re going to push ourselves beyond our limits and we’ll strive to achieve the best we can. It’s time to practice hard and we’re only going to get better.”

Kath Waters, Dance lecturer at Stratford-upon-Avon College, is extremely proud of her group of young dancers: “I’m delighted for them – they have worked incredibly hard and thoroughly deserve their place in the final. From the start they demonstrated a very high level of creativity and ability, which was clearly recognised in the judging panel’s decision. We are all now concentrating on ensuring another winning performance in London!”

Commenting on their selection of the Stratford students for the showcase final, Hannah Lockyer, Rambert Elements coordinator, said: “We were very impressed by the excellent musicality and dynamic quality the dancers embodied within their performance. They performed a very well structured and intelligent piece of choreography and it was very evident that the dancers had taken the time to fully engage with the themes explored in the toolkit.”

We wish the students the very best of luck at the final performance in June.

TV Awards Nomination for Ex-College Student

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College student Parry Glasspool has seen his career soar to new heights after being nominated for Best Newcomer at the National Television Awards. Parry made his Television debut on Hollyoaks spin-off ‘Hollyoaks Later’ in 2013 as Harry Thompson before joining the long-running Channel 4 soap in 2015.

Parry has received acclaim for his fantastic performance while viewers have been gripped by his burgeoning on-screen romance with Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson.

Born in Redditch, Parry grew up in Hollywood in Birmingham and studied A Levels at Stratford-upon Avon College from 2008 to 2010. After honing his acting skills at the College, Parry progressed to University of West London where he studied for a degree in Acting for Stage and Media.

Having received news of his nomination, Parry said, “It’s such an honour. I love every second of working on Hollyoaks and there’s such a supportive team here. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I have many great memories of my time at Stratford College. The teaching I received there helped inspire me to take up acting as a career.”

Duncan Fewins, Director of Teaching and Learning at the College taught A Level Drama to Parry. “Parry was a gifted and talented young performer and a completing student on the A level ‘Drama Package’. He was always a lively and good humoured student with a steely determination to do well. He possessed the rare ability of an actor to be able to create emotive scenes by being fully committed to the theatrical moment. He was a bold and fearless exponent of the arts of performance.”

Andrew Anderson was Parry’s English Literature lecturer and was always impressed with his ability. “It was always clear Parry was going to have a successful acting career. He was a creative and charismatic student who threw himself into activities with great enthusiasm and humour. I am so pleased he is making such a great success of his career.”

You can watch the Awards ceremony on Wednesday 20 January at 7.30pm on ITV.

Musical Theatre Alumni Paris Green

Former Performing Arts Student Paris Green Dances Alongside Celebrities

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts student Paris Green appeared twice on Saturday night prime-time television last month. Paris danced alongside Fleur East on ITV’s The X-Factor and Anastacia on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Paris studied a BTEC National Diploma Musical Theatre at the College between 2007 and 2009 before progressing on to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), where she graduated with a BA (Hons) Degree in Dance and Performing Arts in 2012.

No stranger to the lime-light, Paris made her West End début among the cast of THRILLER Live and more recently performed alongside Cheryl Fernandez-Versini on The X Factor.

College dance students have benefited from Paris’ tutelage and advice in recent years when she has returned to the College to lead dance workshops and answer students’ questions.

Students stand alongside their lecturer.

College Performing Arts Students Win Places At London Dance School

Seven students studying Dance and Musical Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon College have been accepted into London Studio Centre, a prestigious vocational dance school based in North Finchley, where they will spend the next three years on the BA Hons Theatre Dance course, training for flourishing careers in the world of professional dance.

The successful students, all in their final year of Level 3 BTEC Performing Arts courses are: Tom Lowe, 18, from Solihull; Lara Hunt, 17, from Northampton; and Emma Jones,17, from Coventry, who are all studying Dance; and Molly Matthews, 17, from Coventry; Jasmine Webb, 18, from Rugby; Jack Watling, 17, from Banbury; and George Craker, 17, from Coventry, all studying Musical Theatre. While at the College, they have been learning a range of dance styles including ballet, tap, contemporary and jazz dance, and developing their audition skills through practical projects

The students were put through a two-stage auditioning process. During the initial audition, they were required to show their dance techniques in three different styles – ballet, contemporary and jazz. The students were then invited to a recall audition in which they were allowed to choose the specific style that best showed off their abilities as individuals.

Tom Lowe, one of the successful Dance students, hopes for a future in modern musicals and is also interested in gaining commercial dance work on TV and as a backing dancer for touring artists. Tom said: “I felt really nervous in the audition because you never know if they like you or if they feel you performed to the best of your ability. Once you get in there, though, you just get swept up in the atmosphere and enjoy the classes.

Tom sees his acceptance by London Studio Centre as the perfect opportunity to build on his abilities and enter the industry so he can achieve his goals, and recognises the role Stratford-upon-Avon College has played in preparing him for his successful auditions:

“Before I came to Stratford College my ballet and contemporary dance was quite limited so they’ve really helped me to expand on my technical ability. Also being in lots of performances here has really helped me to develop my sense of professionalism. I’ve had so many brilliant opportunities here. I’ve been able to perform in Matthew Bourne’s curtain raisers at the Birmingham Hippodrome in Swan Lake and Edward Scissorhands as well as taking part in a flash mob at Michael Buble’s concert at the Barclay Card arena.”

Like the College, London Studio Centre boasts excellent facilities and offers teaching from industry professionals. Through the efforts of lecturer Phil Watson-Smith, himself a professionally trained dancer and choreographer, the College has built up a great rapport with the Centre. Phil regularly takes students to Open Events there, and ensures that every year the Centre’s graduate company Intoto includes a visit to the College as part of its UK tour, with its next visit on Tuesday 9th June.

Phil is justifiably proud of his students’ success: “I am absolutely delighted that these students have been successful in gaining a place at London Studio Centre, the place where I trained and gained my foundation skills in dance. These students have shown great progress in their time at Stratford-upon-Avon College and are very deserving of this offer and many others they have received.”

Former College Student Takes to the London Stage

Stratford-upon-Avon College Musical Theatre alumnus Molly McGuire has been cast in the upcoming musical ‘Carrie’ to be staged at London’s Southwark Playhouse.

Molly will play the role of Norma in this latest musical adaptation of the Steven King bestselling horror classic, about a shy American schoolgirl who takes revenge on those who torment her by unleashing telekinetic terror at her senior prom.

The original musical version premiered at the RSC in 1988 before transferring to Broadway, but this re-imagined vision is the first time it has been on the stage in London.

Molly, originally from Norton Lindsey, attended Stratford-upon-Avon College where she completed her Level 3 Extended National Diploma in Performing Arts (Musical Theatre).  A popular student, she showed great promise even at this early age and her performances include the lead role of Sally Bowles in the College’s production of Cabaret.

Her Stratford training proved a great help in preparing her for her career, leading to her being accepted in 2012 for a 3-year Diploma by the prestigious Performance Preparation Academy in Guildford, Surrey.

Alex Dengate, lecturer in Musical Theatre, remembers Molly’s time at the College fondly: “During her time here we worked on some fabulous shows – Movies ROCK! at the Stratford Arts House where Molly delivered a spine-tingling rendition of ‘I Am Changing’ from DreamGirls as well as her role as our leading lady ‘Fraulein Sally Bowles’ in the College production of Cabaret.  I will always remember just how much Molly developed her singing, dancing and acting skills during the course of her time here. She was always comfortable playing comedic roles but what really stretched her here at the college were the roles that required really gritty ‘serious’ acting. She fully embraced these parts and blossomed as a performer. We are all delighted to hear that Molly has successfully been cast in ‘Carrie’ and look forward to supporting her at the show as soon as the tickets are released!”

Carrie plays at the Southwark Playhouse from May 1 – 30.


Former College Acting Student Stars in BBC Period Drama Wolf Hall

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College Acting student Molly Heckford will star alongside Hollywood greats such as Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance in the new BBC Period Drama Wolf Hall next week.

Molly plays the young Ann More, daughter of Sir Thomas More and will appear in a banqueting scene in the second episode of the series, Entirely Beloved, airing Wednesday 28th January 2015 at 9pm on BBC Two.

Molly Heckford in the BBC's 'Wolf Hall'

Molly Heckford (right) alongside fellow ‘Wolf Hall’ actors Anton Lesser and Mark Rylance.

Having studied on a BTEC Extended Diploma in Acting from 2012 to 2014 Molly starred in a number of college productions including the lead role in Lysistrata.

Speaking of her time at the College, Molly said: “The facilities were great and the lecturers were helpful and always available to offer advice. I was able to see productions at the RSC that I wouldn’t normally get to see, due to the connection that the college has with the theatre.

Theory elements of my course such as character profiling and learning how to research a role has helped me with other roles I have played since leaving college.”

Molly Heckford in 'Lysistrata' at Stratford-upon-Avon College

Molly Heckford (right) in ‘Lysistrata’ at Stratford-upon-Avon College

Since completing her Acting course Molly has appeared in Casualty and Stella as well as appearing as the witch in Beauty and the Beast at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury.

Duncan Fewins, Director of Teaching and Learning, commented: “I taught Molly for two years. She studied on BTEC Extended Diploma in Performing Arts Acting, overcoming a major knee operation in order to complete her course. She was a dedicated and inspiring student with outstanding performance skills.”