Grads out of Sky Arts’ Stagestruck

Oct 11 2011 | By More

Defeated but unbowed Grads return from Northampton with integrity intact

Waiting to hear the result....

The Grads wait for the results. From left to right: Lorraine McCann (Ranevsky), Matt Davies (Yasha), Richard Godden (Gayev), Cari Silver (Varya), David Grimes (Director), Ross Hope (Pischin), Rhiannon King (Stage Manager), Brian Neill (Fiers). Photo © Jon Davey

By Thom Dibdin

The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group’s adventure into reality television came to an end over the weekend when they bowed out of Sky Arts’ Stagestruck in the quarter finals.

The full results of the round, held at the Derngate Theatre in Northampton on October 8 and 9, will not be revealed until the show is screened next year. However scrutiny of various social media reveals that the Grads did not manage to satisfy the judges.

Four companies performed a short scene from The Cherry Orchard on Saturday. The Grads were second on stage, with Bingley Little Theatre, Regent Rep of Christchurch and Strathclyde Theatre Group also performing. Scotland is still represented in the competition as the Strathclyde Theatre Group, who chose to treat the snippet as a piece in its own right, went through to the semi-final.

Director David Grimes was unable to comment to the Annals on the experience, due to a gagging order put on all participants until the show is screened. As he comments on his blog: “you’ll have to content yourself with the knowledge that there was as much drama off stage as there was on”.

Praising the hard work of the company he adds: “It has been a fantastic experience. Those of us who have been involved have memories to cherish and have our heads held high with the knowledge that we performed exceptionally well and brought integrity and professionalism to the competition. We may not have moved on to the next round, but we definitely returned home victorious in spirit.”

Photographer Jon Davey was sitting in the vast auditorium of the Derngate Theatre for all four snippets on Saturday. He was able to be a bit more vociferous on his Blipfoto entry for Saturday.

Jon reports: “The four different companies did the piece in very different ways, arguably two more conventional and two more stylised. The first was minimal in the extreme and when one of the cast called for a prompt, twice, you had to assume that was their chance gone. Our guys were next, and did a very truthful version of the piece. Although I’m biased I thought it was excellent.”

Pantomime grotesques

After commenting on the strong audience response to the Grads performance, he continues: “Third up was the second of the more conventional versions. Their set and costumes were probably better, but their acting got more and more pantomime, and turned the characters into grotesques.

“Then the last group, with a few more props than the first, but still more stylised than groups two and three. The meaning of the blocks on stage wasn’t entirely obvious in all cases. And strangely their text seemed different from the other three at the very start and at the end. They chose to make the scene like a piece in its own right, rather than part of a longer play.”

Jon Davey’s full comments on the judging panel of actress Miriam Margolyes, theatre critic Quentin Letts and producer Bill Kenwright are available on his Blipfoto entry. But he has nothing except praise for Niamh Cusack who was the Grads’ celebrity mentor, as revealed in the Annals last week.

Of the performances overall he says: “It zinged on stage, the audience loved it and I’m sure their celebrity mentor, Niamh Cusack, would have been very proud of them. Hopefully the production company will let her see the footage of the performance so she can see just how well they did. … Despite having been on stage herself for a matinee and preparing for an evening performance Niamh found time to phone and there was a lovely conversation with her on speaker phone in the hotel lobby. What a class act she is!”

A second quarter final was held on Sunday, with four groups performing an excerpt from An Enemy Of The People: FissiParous Theatre of Wirral, Tell Tale Theatre Company of Liverpool, Heath Players of Hatfield, and Crossmichael Drama Club of Castle Douglas.

The Grads might not be going on to perform an excerpt from Shakespeare at Stratford in the semi-finals, but their association with the bard and his birthplace is not over. Their next production will be Hamlet, the third and final Shakespeare they are staging as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages Project.

Stagestruck will be screened on Sky Arts next year. Details on

Hamlet is at the St. Brides Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, November 9-12, 7.30pm. Tickets priced £10 are available from Hub Tickets on

Credit and thanks to Jon Davey for the picture and use of report:


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  1. Karen says:

    I think it’s very sad that The Grads chose to be undignified & ungracious in defeat. To insult the other performers while boasting about their own superiority (that only a judges’ conspiracy thwarted) is the worst kind of am-dram pettiness.