A lovely end to the week with an induction treasure hunt up in town, most of the staff came to support.
We met the first years outside the National Theatre and sent them off in teams of four or five, along the South Bank, across Hungerford Bridge, up Villiers Street to the Galleries on the North side of Trafalgar Square, up through Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, along Shaftesbury Avenue into Covent Garden, back down Drury Lane to the Aldwych, along Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill, round St. Pauls and then back across the millennium bridge to the Tate and The Globe before handing in their papers at The Anchor Pub on the river, where, legend asserts Shakespeare regularly nipped in for a jar or two on his way home. En route there's thrity questions to answer.
Apart from encouraging the students to meet each other, the plan is really is to get them to realise not just want a fantastic cultural resource London is, but how much is free or vastly discounted to them. The world's greatest stage actors, directors and designers show off their work nightly and most theatres offer great deals, if you do a little pre-planning. On the Oyster card the 40 minute tube ride from Richmond up to Sloane Square or the Embankment only costs a couple of quid. From here everywhere worth going is walkable. Everything is very, very close and pretty affordable.
With the students off on the hunt we wandered along the South Bank, taking in the Autumn afternoon. London is still basking in the self-contented glow of post-Olympic adulation and most people exhausted by the revels seem to be happily greeting the change of season. A man in shades played electric guitar in the shallows of Thames as the tide came in. At first the water lapped his feet, then his knees and finally rose up to his waist. A crowd gathered. The first chestnut sellers are stoking their stalls.
At the pub we settled down with drinks and chatted about the department. It's a happy place just now. full of optimism, possibility and the excitement at the new year ahead. After a couple of hours the students started to arrive full of discoveries and surprises. I hope, as the semester progresses, they'll regularly find an excuse to get on the train and head up to catch a show or exhibition.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.