Master class with a ‘legend’
12th May 2015

On 29th April, Oundle School drama pupils were privileged to take part in a Wontner Master Class, led by theatre director Max Stafford-Clark.

Lower Sixth former, Hetty Hodgson (17) commented, “If asked to describe Max Stafford-Clark in one word, it would be ‘legend’.”

The pupils had all watched Max's production of Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage by Robin Soans, a former Oundle pupil, the evening before, and were excited about the prospect of the workshop the following day.

Hetty added, “It is fair to say none of us really knew what to expect. What struck us almost immediately was the energy that Max had, as did his cast.”

The workshop was split into two parts revolving around the two rehearsal methods that Max is most famous for – ‘status’ and ‘actioning’. In the first section, the pupils were each assigned a random status, and through their interactions with each other, had to identify each person’s status in the group. Then, through a series of improvised scenes they played with the idea of how status can influence strength of motivation.

In the second part of the workshop they examined the idea of ‘actioning’. This is the idea that each word or line has an individual action attached to it. Here, the two actors from the previous night’s production who play the characters Meryl and Darcey read through one of the scenes with the actions attached to them. The pupils saw how useful this would be in rehearsals and how fundamental it is to the process of directing in Max’s productions.

Hetty concluded, “We were surprised to hear that two out of five weeks rehearsal time for Max’s shows is spent doing table work and actioning. We each had a chance to work with actioning, and it was harder than it looked, especially having to do it in some highly questionable Welsh accents. But we could see how useful it would be to the development of characters and the portrayal of distinctive emotions.

Everyone would agree that we learnt an unbelievable amount during the workshop. The two actors and Max were truly inspirational.”

Stahl Theatre Director, Naomi Jones commented, “Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage by Out of Joint was performed at the Stahl Theatre on Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th April.  This extraordinary production tells the compelling and at times moving story of Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas and his hometown of Bridgend. It opened in Cardiff in February to rave national reviews, (4 and 5*s across the board) and came to Oundle following a national tour which has included performances at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman Theatre.  

Writer Robin Soans, himself an Old Oundelian and director Max Stafford-Clark hosted a post-show discussion after Tuesday’s performance.  This was a great opportunity for members of the public to ask leading theatre practitioners about their work in rehearsal, and to quiz the cast about the responsibility of playing a real person“

 Max Stafford-Clark says of the project: “I’m always on the lookout for stories, and the story of the so-called “epidemic” of teenage deaths in Bridgend lodged in my mind. I knew Gareth Thomas had played for Bridgend so when he came out as gay three years later I associated the two stories. In addition I am a keen rugby fan, and some of my Welsh friends moan about the demise of the old great Welsh clubs. After all, as recently as 1981 Bridgend had beaten Australia! Here was a town whose story must be told.”

Writer Robin Soans says “It is great to be working for Max and Out of Joint together with the National Theatre of Wales and the Arcola because between us we can tell a story about survival in the face of huge odds and try to combat narrow-mindedness. It is important in an age of pigeon-holing and casual assumptions to show a broader picture of humanity, and to challenge prejudice wherever it raises its dismal head.


For more information about future productions at Oundle’s Stahl Theatre visit or E: T: 01832 273930


Guardian Review:


Writer Robin Soans is celebrated for his documentary, verbatim plays based on interviews with real people, including Out of Joint's acclaimed shows Mixed Up North, A State Affair and Talking to Terrorists, which was nominated for Best Play at the TMA awards and has been performed overseas including in Tehran. Others include Life After Scandal about Christine and Neil Hamilton, and The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, which also spawned a book of recipes. His most recent play was the fictional drama Perseverance Drive, which played to great praise at the Bush Theatre in 2014.

Director Max Stafford-Clark co-founded Joint Stock Theatre Group in 1974 following his Artistic Directorship of The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. From 1979 to 1993, he was Artistic Director of The Royal Court Theatre, after which he founded Out of Joint. His work as a director has overwhelmingly been with new writing, and he has commissioned and directed first productions from writers including Sue Townsend, Stephen Jeffreys, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Sebastian Barry, April de Angelis, Mark Ravenhill, Andrea Dunbar, Alistair Beaton, David Hare and Caryl Churchill. Additionally he has directed for the RSC, Sydney Theatre Company, New York's Roundabout Theater and most recently The Seagull for Culture Project, New York. His books are Letters to George, Taking Stock and Journal of the Plague Year.


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 

There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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