Student theatre production is a family affair


L-R Jamie-Jodie Shanks, Adele Clarke, Megan Davies, Mirie-Marie Shanks, Nikita-Nina Shanks & Lorie-Lanie Shanks

Rugby College performing arts students – including four sisters – are staging a production of family drama The House of Bernarda Alba this March.

The play is the first production by Spitfire Youth Theatre. The company is made up of foundation degree performing arts students at the college including sisters Jamie-Jodie, Lorie-Lanie, Mirie-Marie and Nikita-Nina Shanks, as well as Megan Davies and Adele Clarke. Guest performers Evita Butkute and Leonie Maguire who are on the Level 3 Performing Arts course at the college, complete the cast.

The play, by Federico García Lorca, is set in the height of summer 1936, southern Spain, during a period of mourning, in which Bernarda Alba wields total control over her five daughters.

Jamie-Jodie, 25 from Kenilworth, who takes on the title role of Bernarda Alba, explains more. “The play is a bitter and darkly comic tragedy with tyranny, jealousy and a woman’s instinctive desire. Bernarda’s husband is dead, so an eight year mourning period will be obeyed within the four walls. This means no contact with the outside world except for Bernarda’s eldest daughter, whose inheritance has attracted the attention of a local, younger suitor. As the wedding approaches, Bernarda’s daughters’ become more frustrated as they each struggle for their freedom, which results in Bernarda’s family being tragically torn apart.”

Megan, 18 from Rugby, is playing La Poncia, Bernarda’s servant. She says “The play has a lot of social and political meaning that audiences could relate to now including the importance of social standing and sexism.”

Jamie-Jodie continued, “There are many different things that you can take from this play – there are some similarities with what is happening in America right now, as well as the historical reality of how people lived in the 30s.”

Talking about the experience of acting with her sisters in a play about family, Lorie-Lanie, 21, who plays Amelia, one of Bernarda’s daughters said, “There’s an all female cast for this play and we do draw on our own experiences as sisters – we know the dynamics that can happen in families.”

Adele, 19 from Rugby, plays Martirio, one of the five sisters. She said, “Working with the others you get used to them being sisters, so it’s not strange – we just play on it. Having known each other for a while and being on the course together, we all feel like a family anyway!”

The company have also been working with fellow students on the Foundation Degree in Production Arts course on prosthetics, to age three of the cast members playing older women in the play.

Mirie-Marie, 21, said, “We’re so excited to be doing our first performance as Spitfire Youth. We’ve done a huge amount of independent rehearsal and research into the characters so now we just want to get on stage and perform.”

Lecturer David Bird, who is directing the play, said, “These are the first students on our new performing arts foundation degree, and originally they were just performing extracts of the play for an assessment on character analysis. But they did so well, I thought it would be a shame not to put on the play.

“All of the students came on the degree course as good, impulsive actors, but they have improved so much and this will show in their performance.”

The show runs from Wednesday 1 March-Friday 3 March at 7pm at Rugby College’s purpose-built theatre and tickets are just £7.50 (£5 concessions) and can be bought online at or on the door.

For more information about courses at Rugby College go to or call 0300 456 0049.

About Association of Colleges West Midlands

AoC West Midlands promotes and supports the interests of 38 general further education, sixth form and specialist colleges throughout the West Midlands region. The West Midlands is a diverse region and our colleges reflect this diversity. From small specialist colleges in rural locations to large inner city establishments, colleges reflect the needs of their local environment. Working closely with employers, learners and the local community, our 38 member colleges offer a broad range of flexible learning opportunities for individuals at all levels. They aim to give local people the skills they need for success and prosperity, tackling barriers to learning and providing opportunities that meet the needs of individuals and employers
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