News From the School

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,

 Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So says Hamlet to his best friend after he has been informed of the brutal truth of his father’s murder by the spirit of the deceased. Well, Whitgift’s recent production of arguably the Bard’s most famous play dared to dream big and boy did it pay off, with the end product being a week of sensational performances in a Big School utterly transformed. Indeed, the innovative traverse set up was unlike anything you would have seen in the venue before, with the actors able to interact with the audience and every corner of space being utilised, including the balcony, which doubled as the court room in Elsinore, and the conventional raised stage, which housed the Whitgift Chamber Orchestra, who accompanied the action with a brooding score, created at Sir Laurence Olivier’s request for the Oscar-nominated film version, by British composer, Walton. I thought I knew what I was going to be in for, what with sharing an office with Mr Daniel Pirrie (director) and Mr Paul Wilson (creative consultant and Whitgift drama legend), but within a mere five minutes of the lights going down – after I had been submerged in theatrical smoke and had a spear thrust within an inch of my face by a fully armoured boy bellowing “Who’s there?” – I knew I was going to be in for something a little bit special! The role of the eponymous tragic hero was shared between lower sixth former, Oscar Nicholson, and upper fifth former, Jude Willoughby. I only saw Oscar’s performance, which was utterly compelling and deeply moving, but I heard that Jude was equally up to the task – quite some feat for a fifteen year old! The roles of Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius were taken by professional actors Marcus Gilbert, Wanda Opalinska and Keith Bartlett. The two young Hamlets and the rest of the company gained a huge amount from working in close proximity with experts, and the end result was a royal feast for all the senses.

The Play’s the thing

 Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

Hamlet was not the only theatrical production going on in Whitgift over the past couple of months; indeed, during the months of October and November, you could not walk to the end of a corridor without hearing one rehearsal or another booming out of classrooms. First up on Friday 21st October was The Call, in which a group of lower sixth boys performed a selection of self-directed plays. Next up, on Thursday and Friday 25th November, was the first form play, which involved a huge number of boys taking on a collection of tales from the Brothers Grimm. Adapted for the stage, the tales chosen to disturb and delight audiences were Iron Hans, The Hare and the Hedgehog, The Musicians of Bremen, Brother Scamp and Snow White. The boys grasped the challenge of the sometimes macabre subject matter with glee, and, with creative flair, managed to transport those in the Concert Hall into a fantastical land. Last, but not least, was everyone’s favourite evening of theatrical escapades, House Drama. This year Dodd’s were worthy winners with their version of current West End farce, Comedy About Bank Robbery. Bravo Whitgift drama!

Remember me.”

With the school honouring the fallen of 1916 in the first class exhibition in the Performing Arts Centre, this year’s remembrance service took on added poignancy and meaning. The service itself followed the same format as usual, with the Lower School boys and their tutors gathering with a group of Old Whitgiftians by the War Memorial to remember the dead, but one key difference this year was that the bugle used to play the last post was a German one actually from 1916, which was kindly loaned for the purpose by the exhibition. Talking of the exhibition, it may interest you to know that it recently got the royal seal of approval. Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front was honoured to receive a visit from His Royal Highness, The Duke of York, KG, on Thursday 13 October. The School’s longstanding Patron viewed the exhibition for the first time since its launch, in March this year. He received a warm welcome from the Headmaster and Exhibition Director, Dr Barnett, alongside Whitgift students, exhibition staff and guests. Whilst making his way through the displays, he was serenaded by vocal and instrumental performances of the era, and he exited the exhibition garden, on a beautiful autumnal day, to the strains of Good-bye-ee!, sung by the Barbershop Ensemble. He described Remembering 1916 as ‘a brilliant exhibition’.

’tis the sport to have the enginer

 Hoist with his own petard,”

After such a promising start to the season, it was a shame that the rugby First XV ran out of steam in the latter stages when an ever increasing injury list and fatigue got the better of them. The first two games after half term were crushing away victories over RGS Wycombe and Dulwich, and hence seemed to promise great things, but the wheels came off when they were knocked out of the Natwest Cup in a 8 – 10 reverse away to Felsted school, in a match that took place only three days after the team’s heroics at Dulwich. This was a crushing disappointment to the boys and precipitated a rather lacklustre end to the season. It’s not all doom and gloom in the rugby ranks, though: the U16A team had their first unbeaten season in quite some time and the U13s and U15s are both still in their respective national cups. The 13s and 15s have also progressed through to the semi-finals of the ISFA football national cups, beating Royal Russell and Millfield respectively, and in hockey, the U16 and U18 sides both won their age groups in the South indoor finals, meaning they qualify for the national finals next year. Lastly in sport, the Whitgift Inter (Year 10) boys competed in the ESAA Cross Country Cup Final, early in December, in Formby, Liverpool. The predominantly Year 9 team performed incredibly well to finish 7th as a team, out of 23 of the best cross country schools in the country.

Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseaméd bed,

Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty – “

Yes, that’s right, Whitgift now has its very own apiarist society and not only that… they are making award winning honey! Launched in September 2016, The Apiarist Society is the latest addition to Whitgift’s co-curricular clubs. Design and Technology Technician, Mrs Angela Nicholls, set up the Society believing it to be a worthwhile venture for the students. She explains that, “Whitgift is an ideal situation to aid the recovery of the local bee population. The grounds and gardens of the School are ideal ecosystems in which bees thrive.” So far, the Society has given boys the opportunity to visit the Whitgift apiary, open a hive, observe healthy bees and identify different parts of a hive, and understand the relationship between bees and our world, and their importance for pollination. In its first year, Whitgift Apiarist Society has produced 60 jars of honey, which sold out in just 25 minutes during a lunchtime in September. At the National Honey Show at Sandown Park, at the end of October, Whitgift’s honey was awarded second place, out of 46 entries, in the Open Class (for the British Isles) for Medium Honey. During the winter months, boys will be making hive parts ready for next year and will be learning about bee anatomy, their life-cycle and hive management. For more information on the Apiarist Society, please contact Mrs Nicholls on

So that’s it from Whitgift for 2016. How best to sign off? How about some season’s greetings uttered by Marcellus in the first scene of a certain play you might have heard of…

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes

Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,

The bird of dawning singeth all night long;

And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad,

The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,

No fairy takes over, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallowed and so gracious is the time.”