Phil Tattersall-King

Director of Drama, Dance and Bedales Arts Programme, Bedales

BA (Hons) International Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London and University of Queensland, Australia
MPhil in Playwriting, University of Birmingham 
MPGCE, University of Warwick
Co-founder of Rough Fiction theatre company
Chair of the National Independent Schools’ Drama Association (NISDA)

What makes a good teacher at Bedales?

Students sit at the very heart of learning at Bedales. In the drama department we facilitate this learning by being critical judges and simultaneous supporters. We take thoughtful risks in the work we select for students, pushing beyond the often all too regular diet of theatrical offerings in other institutions, and expect students to take thoughtful risks in the way they engage in the process of creating work. We want students to surprise themselves with what they are capable of and we value being part of that experience.  

What are you trying to encourage and instil in your pupils?

Through delivering the range of genre that we consciously do here we instil in our students a broad range of understanding. I have been fortunate to stage plays by Martin Crimp, Heiner Müller, John Vanbrugh, Robert Browning, Chris Thorpe, Tristan Tzara and stage performances we have created ourselves inspired by Robert Wilson, Forced Entertainment and the “Shockheaded Peter” Stories to mention but some key performances in recent years. There are university departments that would be proud of that range of work. In our own BAC (GCSE equivalent) course in Block 4 (Year 10 equivalent) we underpin all the above by examining naturalism, exploring our cultural past looking at Greek Chorus and finish with the most important playwright in history, Shakespeare. This wide-ranging study, from the traditional to the contemporary, allows students to find their areas of interest and push the boundaries of their theatrical world.

Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?

Outside of organising and directing shows for the lower years, the sixth form, and indeed the whole school together we run a National Theatre writing scheme where David Anson, Head of English, and I work with a group of students each week in creating pieces that enter the “New Views” competition. Being part of the careful crafting of new works of theatre, some of which are staged in our theatre, is exciting. More importantly than the influence of David and me though is the fact that the student plays are read by our visiting playwright, who visits us and offers advice on the drafting process of those plays. This connects us to the theatre industry and allows students to embark on the difficult and rewarding process of creating new theatre work.

In your opinion, what makes Bedales?

Here the unique can thrive, and that is powerful. We wear what we want to wear and as a teacher I am addressed by the name that adults refer to me by. These are subtle, yet important, shifts that allow students the confidence to be the creators of their own world, with, not in opposition to, their teachers. Students do not receive some archaic sense of “learning” that is finite and bounded. Bedales is proud to foster and encourage independence.

What is your best memory of Bedales?

I was married on site in the tactile and finely crafted Lutpon Hall. I deeply love my subject and student learning of that subject here has formed memories that I will take with me throughout my career but being able to write my own vows and speak them in a building with so much vibrant history, to the person I love most, will take some beating.

Who or what inspires you?

Theatre has the possibility to show us a glimpse of the impossible as something reachable. Theatre can teach us how to live whilst being undogmatic and it can cause us to question without throwing us into confusion. Plays are the world in microcosm and the process of their creation a community in microcosm. This is amazing enough to reflect on and follow in any line of flight possible. This is why this subject is so important.

Tell us something not a lot of people know about you.

I have been to the sweltering lower levels of the Potosi silver mines, underneath Exmouth’s navy pier watching myriad, multicolored and rare sea life, and over the New Year I enjoyed the rarefied air of Everest Base Camp.

Read Phil's article on his Everest Base Camp trek, published in The Independent: Everest Base Camp trek: Highs and lows of an adventure to take your breath away

Read Phil's article on the value of drama in school, published in The Guardian: A winter's tale: don't overlook the value of drama in school