Haverhill school makes a dramatic impact on festival debut

Staff and students at Samuel Ward Academy after winning the Best Junior Group at the 2017 Cambridge Theatre Festival.
Staff and students at Samuel Ward Academy after winning the Best Junior Group at the 2017 Cambridge Theatre Festival.

A school drama group capped making its festival debut in style after being named the Best Junior Group.

Students and staff at Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill are celebrating after they were chosen for the prestigious award at last weekend’s Cambridge Theatre Festival.

And the accolades didn’t stop there with nominations for best sound, best actor, best actress, best cameo and the Adjudicators Award.

After admitting that the school had initially taken part just to gain some festival experience, Matthew Russell, head of performing arts, paid a special tribute to the young cast and crew.

Matthew said: “It was the first time the school had ever performed in a festival and in my 11 years teaching, it was my first taste of a festival.

“It was a great opportunity for the students to perform in a professional theatre and to get adjudicated and feedback from a professional actor, both personally and as a group.

“No matter what the result, they would have gained a massive amount of experience and I guess deep down we would have loved to have got nominated.

“But to come back with an award is testimony to the hard work and commitment of the students and everyone involved in the production.”

The young group performed Graham, World’s Fastest Blind Runner, which they last took to the stage five months ago, and Matthew described the performance as “one of their best”.

It was written by playwright Mark Wheeller who watched the junior group’s performance last year and suggested to them that they took it to the Cambridge Theatre Festival.

Matthew added: “We went to the festival with no expectations. But we did an absolutely brilliant performance, probably our best one, and we won the best junior group.

“The adjudicators paid particular attention to the fact the whole cast worked in tandem, no one broke their role, and they were tuned into the play and really immersive.

“I must congratulate each and every one of them.”

The group was also nominated for best sound, best actor for both Oli Kemp and Jack Ainsworth-MacKay, best actress for Ella Ketteridge and best cameo for Grace Clancy, George Farrington and Luke Potter.