Priestley College performing arts students talk about their return to action


You’re in your living room trying to get into a group routine because your laptop is lagging and you haven’t seen a friend in weeks. Not ideal.

The lockdown has been difficult for everyone, especially Priestley College students in the performing arts sector.

And as we approach the final leg of the year, we got to chat with some of them who walked through lockdown discouraged and came out the other side relishing the chance to do what they love again.

Meet Jake Burke, a former student of Bridgewater High School. He studied drama, English and philosophy at Priestley.

“Theatre is one of the hardest subjects,” Jake said. You can do your best to replicate what it would be like in the play, but the drama is about interacting with people and without that it was really hard. It was horrible and not the same.

“I also lost confidence in my skills because you feel like you haven’t practiced them in ages.

“If a rehearsal room gets awkward, it sticks and everyone feels it. On Zoom, this mentality is reproduced.

“So you’re worried your Wi-Fi or your parents can hear you. It just doesn’t work as well as in a room with like-minded people, all those barriers are gone.

“It’s really nice to be back and to be able to play again because everything suddenly comes back to you.”

Jake Burke in action

And Ocean Nelson feels the same.

The 18-year-old musical theater student added: “Because what we study is quite practical when we were online, you lose your passion for it. Trying to dance in your life – you get bored of it and it doesn’t work not.

“I was not in it and I was not engaged in the lesson, so I want to come back, there is more connection between teachers and students.

“Coming back and being in a room with everyone – you realize that’s what you want to do after doubting yourself.

“It’s completely different in a studio.

“Because it’s all been so up in the air, we weren’t sure we were going to have a year-end show, so the fact that we’re getting one now and it’s like ‘oh my god, this is actually happening”.

“I feel like there was a point where you don’t think it’s doable anymore because of the Covid takeover. Now it’s surreal, it’s here.

Imogen Cowell, an alumnus of St Gregory’s who balances dance, theater and A-Levels maths relishes being back with people who share her passion – and a passion she wants to take beyond the university.

“Being back with other like-minded people who want to dance and knowing they want to dance is so much fun,” Imogen said.

Imogen Cowell also told us about her experience over the past two years

Imogen Cowell also told us about her experience over the past two years

A snapshot of the winter showcase performance

A snapshot of the winter showcase performance

A-Level Show Action

A-Level Show Action

“I don’t think the excitement can be put into words.

“It’s what we all love to do and it’s our passion, so not being able to do it for so long and do it again is so exciting. You feel like you have to prove yourself as well.

And Bhaskar Roy, who moved from London a few years ago and is studying theatre, film and media, had the challenge of adapting to it all.

The 19-year-old, who is part of an all-male theater group called Chaos, said: “In the performing arts, everyone has to be connected and know each other and on Zoom it’s impossible.

“During the confinement, it was quite hard and at that time, I did not make many friends.

“It’s so nice to be back and playing with others.”

Bhaskar, who has applied for several acting classes, added, “I love being back, being able to see facial expressions and feeling a reaction from the audience because you can’t online.”

About Madeline J. Carter

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