The 2016 Eton School Play Festival ran for five days this October. There were queues every night outside the doors of the theatres, which scattered around the school and there was without doubt a buzz in the air, as evening fell and the opportunity arose to see exciting, new play-writing and directing by boys and masters.

Okolona River Bottom Band received rapturous reviews for its slick, masterful writing together with a Tarantino-esque plot composed by the directors Charlie Wade and George Williams, who also performed in the production. An Aesthetic, which was directed by Roddy Howland Jackson, Joe Kenelm and James Hill, challenged audiences with its almost absurdist, abstract study of Forsterian interconnectedness and the everyday existentialism of human life. Mr Newton’s play, Don’t Tell, was genuinely funny; effortless writing brought to life by a realness of acting from Jude Martin, Charlie Barlow and Xander Angelini-Hurll. It was a script that reflected upon the internal dilemmas and insecurities of all of us, masked behind facades of coolness and popular culture. Set in Thatcherite Britain, it had a strange timelessness that made it relevant to a modern society in which lives are relentlessly publicised through instant photography and social media, but yet still real lives are hidden and secrets prevail.

All of these themes, issues and genres were available in the microcosmic Edinburgh Fringe that was created for a week in the Eton Drama Department. With a radio play, Mud, written by the festival’s youngest writer, James Newbery, Ealing to Victoria, written and directed by Frank Baring, where the fascinating setting of a claustrophobic tube journey was employed, The Undersigned, by Mr Francis in the Farrer Theatre, and Tracing Paper, written by Henry Eaton-Mercer OE and directed by Dexter Simpson – the variety and quality of productions gave the festival its charm.

Harry McNamara

Photo (c)Robert Workman