Students and graduates from Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire are celebrating after achieving critical success at the world’s largest arts festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Events website The List ranked the top-rated shows from all reviews, with ‘Trojan Horse’ named as the third best at The Fringe. Starring recent Conservatoire graduate Shobat Kadara, the play also won the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award and a ‘Scotsman’ Fringe First award.
Based on real-life events that saw several Birmingham schools being investigated following claims of ‘hardline’ Muslim teachers and governors plotting to control them, ‘Trojan Horse’ depicts a community torn apart by racial division, British values and the culture of the counter-terrorism strategy known as Prevent.
In 2017, while studying Acting at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Shobat played Dan in the first BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) production of Patrick Marber’s multi-award winning play ‘Closer’.
Produced by theatre company Strictly Arts, which was founded by graduate and Honorary Member of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Corey Campbell; ‘Freeman’ was written with graduate Camilla Whitehill and directed by Danièle Sanderson Head of Undergraduate Studies – Acting and BA (Hons) Acting Course Director at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. As well as Conservatoire alumni featuring among the cast, ‘Freeman’ was overseen technically by Stage Management graduate Connor Dickens.
Inspired by the first man in America to plead Insanity as his defence, ‘Freeman’ examines the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism. The List placed it as the 13th best production at The Fringe and it received recognition in the Mervyn Stutter’s ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ Awards, known as The MERVs. These awards acknowledge and celebrate the talent, hard work, pluck and sheer doggedness demanded of performers to make a show a success from all genres at The Fringe.
Writer and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus Camilla Whitehill, said: “I’m so thrilled that so many people connected with the show in Edinburgh. Its success is a reflection of how hard Strictly Arts worked and how talented they are.
“We would never have met and collaborated if it wasn’t for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I think it’s a great reflection of the kind of work we’re encouraged to make whilst training.”
Elsewhere, The List placed musical ‘Six’, starring alumna Alexia Macintosh as Anne of Cleves, as the fifth best production at The Fringe; with ‘Kids Play’, featuring current Acting student Clement Charles, came in at 26th; and ‘Our Boys’, starring recent alumnus Christopher Lowry, was ranked 63rd out of more than 1,600 shows. The latter also won a Derek Award for Best Overall Show.
The open-access festival has been providing opportunities for creative groups and individuals for over 70 years, and offers anyone with the desire to perform – from emerging artists to big name acts – with an exceptional platform to do so.
Professor Stephen Simms, Vice Principal and Head of Acting at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said: “The highly anticipated festival is a significant occasion for our actors, as it provides a unique platform to showcase their talent and develop their practice. Festival-goers not only find our established graduates in shows and productions as part of The Fringe, but some of our most recent graduates and even some current students headed to Edinburgh, in some cases with original shows they have written and produced.”
In 2018, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire had a particularly strong presence at the festival, with six current students and several graduates all performing throughout the three weeks in August at various venues around the Scottish capital.
Formerly known as Birmingham School of Acting, the Conservatoire’s Acting Department is one of the leading drama schools in the country, with roots dating back to 1936. Graduates typically go on to pursue successful careers in theatre (including musical theatre), television and film.
Notable alumni include Nicol Williamson, Tom Lister, Catherine Tyldesley, Rachel Bright, Nicola Coughlan, Barbara Keogh, Luke Mably, James Bradshaw, Stephen Laughton, Jeffrey Holland, David Holt, Anna Brewster, Jimi Mistry, Helen George, Ainsley Howard, Nicholas Gledhill and Tania Hales-Richardson.
In addition to the BA (Hons) Acting, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also offers foundation courses, short courses, and undergraduate degrees in the associated disciplines of Stage Management and Applied Theatre, as well as taught postgraduate courses in acting and professional voice practice.