Joshua Clarke, second year Drama student, as 'Sherlock' and Emma-Rose Payne, third year, who will play the part of the 'Lady of the Wind'

Drama students carry the flame to Exeter

Drama students from the University are supporting the organisation of Exeter’s Olympic Torch Relay and have been selected to perform the main roles in the procession.

The event, entitled ‘Battle for the Winds’ is part of a unique theatrical project to mark the opening celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in July which will see the Olympic Torch travelling through Exeter city centre on 20 May.

In a British-themed carnivalesque fashion, Exeter’s cast of dramatic performers will lead the processional performance, telling a story of a heroic quest to ‘free the winds’ in a spectacular piece of outdoor theatre which includes members of the wider public, local school children and artists.

A total of 20 undergraduate Drama students will be involved, either as the chief performers or as part of the production team, using expertise gained in their in Arts Management module.

Sarah Yeoman, Drama undergraduate, said, “I want to go into journalism and producing and so not only am I gaining invaluable experience about press and marketing - which is great for future career prospects, but being involved in such a prestigious and patriotic event is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Erin Walcon, Drama doctoral student added, “The Battle for the Winds project is creating real-world professional opportunities for our drama students to work in administration, marketing and management on a theatrical project with a national profile. As an experiential learning challenge, it is certainly a best practice model for our students' growth and it places our talented drama student performers on an international stage.”

The project is currently in full swing with the cast undertaking a series of dress rehearsals and costume fittings on the theme of the ‘Devon myth’, including a whimsical ’Lady of the Wind’, a ‘Met Office Man’, and ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Other eccentric characters will involve individuals walking on stilts, hiding within equestrian puppetry and majorettes twirling batons.

The student puppet construction team have been busy building the puppets and parade elements of the procession with Devon-based theatre company Forkbeard Fantasy; an ensemble of local visual and performing artists, animators, designers and film-makers who will be creating an elaborate ‘Wind Gathering Vessel’ especially for the event. Rebecca Savory, Director and Choreographer within the Exeter group, said, “Chris Britton, the Artistic Director at Forkbeard Fantasy has devised some wonderfully funny and fun characters, and I'm excited to be helping to bring those to life.”

In addition to the parade in Exeter on 20th May, Exeter’s Drama students will be performing at the launch of the sailing events in Weymouth at the end of July, where the winds will be finally ‘set free’.  Rebecca added, “Our student performers are developing their skills in puppetry and street theatre, and will be performing to thousands of people across the two events. This is probably the biggest arts event in the South West this year, and I'm really glad that the University of Exeter is a part of it!”.

The group’s progress can be viewed by visiting their student-led blog and by following their Twitter page, both forming part of the project’s marketing strategy. More information about the ‘Battle for the Winds’ project and Forkbeard Fantasy theatre company can be found on their websites.

Date: 17 May 2012