Congratulations to King’s Ely Senior student, Isobel Guyer, who is celebrating success in a national playwriting competition – for the first ever play that she has written!

More than 500 plays were written and entered into this year’s ‘New Views’ competition by students from 90 different schools across the UK. ‘New Views’ is the National Theatre’s nationwide playwriting programme for students aged 14-19.

Two winning plays were chosen by a panel of professional judges, and seven plays were shortlisted. We are thrilled to announce that Isobel’s play, entitled ‘Here To Help’, is one of the shortlisted seven!

Isobel’s masterpiece will be performed as a rehearsed reading in the ‘New Views Festival’, which is being held at the National Theatre in London on Thursday and Friday, July 4th and 5th.

Isobel, who is in Year 10, said: “It was a total shock and really exciting when I found out that ‘Here To Help’ had been shortlisted. I never thought it would get longlisted, let alone shortlisted!

“‘Here To Help’ is a cautionary tale about a young woman who is struggling to fit in socially. She turns to Artificial Intelligence (AI) for help, and this help has sinister consequences. My play takes a look at social anxiety and loneliness, and the role that social media and technology play in modern friendship. Even though the play has dark undertones, it is aimed at a younger audience. With this in mind, I have aimed for humour rather than scare tactics to tell the story.”

‘Here To Help’ is the first ever play that Isobel has written, although she has starred in many performances here at King’s.

Isobel, who joined King’s Ely Prep in Year 5, said: “This was my first attempt at this type of writing. I found the experience of writing in this style really enjoyable, although it was challenging in places. I found the initial scenes between Pearl and Kal difficult to generate. This was mostly because I wanted the characters to sound believable and also imagine how they might evolve over the course of the play. I almost had to work backwards from the end goal.”

When asked if playwriting is something she is considering pursuing as a hobby or career, Isobel said: “Definitely! I am interested in all things writing and storytelling, so it is certainly an option!”

The year-long ‘New Views’ programme sees each participating school being paired with a professional playwright, who supports students to write their own original 30-minute play. Our Drama Department has been involved with the programme for two years now. Our Director in Residence, Mr Isaac Beeton, runs weekly sessions with pupils after school. We have been fortunate to be mentored by professional playwright, Mr Christopher Hill, who visited us to guide the pupils’ ideas and offer feedback on their first draft.

Mr Oliver Pengelly, who is Director of Drama at King’s Ely Senior, said: “After trialling the programme with Sixth Form students in our first year, this year we were delighted to extend the opportunity to pupils in Years 9, 10 and 12, with six pupils eager to participate. The challenge of writing a 30-minute (approximately 5,000 words) original script should not be underestimated. Playwrights have to not only develop an original narrative, but also develop complex characters, dialogue, and a coherent concept for how their ideas will play out on stage. The sessions were a mixture of exploring playwriting exercises and techniques, discussing ideas, and, of course, practical exploration of dialogue and character. I was delighted to see all the participants deliver a final submission ahead of the deadline in mid-April, and they should all be immensely proud of their achievements.

“From the very beginning, Isobel had a clear idea of developing a narrative that explored themes of AI, individualism, and agency. She has been receptive to feedback throughout the process and has developed her ideas with impressive thoughtfulness and maturity. Her completed script, ‘Here To Help’, is an exceptional piece of writing that prompts the audience to reflect upon the role that AI plays in our lives and our relationships with others.

“We are thrilled that her script has been shortlisted, and that it will be presented as a rehearsed reading by professional actors in one of the studios at the National Theatre as part of the two-day ‘New Views Festival’ early next month. Isobel has been invited to attend rehearsals to meet with the actors and director, and we are all looking forward to travelling to London to hear her script in performance. This is an incredible achievement, and I do hope that all the pupils feel inspired to continue writing for theatre.”

Mr Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, said: “’New Views’ is a wonderful platform for young people across the UK to be empowered to share their perspective on topical issues, as well as develop their creativity and writing skills, helping to nurture the next generation of theatre makers and writers, while encouraging creative self-expression in whatever they choose to do in life.”

For more information about ‘New Views’, including attending the Festival in July, visit: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

What an incredible achievement, Isobel – we are all thrilled for you!

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