Taking a dramatic turn to gain ATCL

01 Feb 2024

Attaining ATCL speaks volumes about the remarkable ability of Old Boys Benedykt Staples and Joel Fulford to bring text to life through the spoken word.

As their last year at Christ’s College drew to a close, both Benedykt and Joel were awarded the ATCL (Associate) Diploma in Speech and Drama by Trinity College London.

Following their impressive achievements, Benedykt describes the College Speech and Drama programme as “uniquely insightful and useful”, setting the stage for prized experiences.

“With Speech and Drama, I gained an appreciation for the performers, crew, and organisers of College productions and events,” he says. “That led me to prioritise these experiences in my final year as a crew member for the Senior Production of Peter Pan, in multiple roles for the Richards House Play – including writing and editing scenes, and appearing as ‘Moody Mad-Eye’ – and being part of the amazing London Drama Tour. Without Speech and Drama, these opportunities and experiences would have been further out of reach.”

For Joel, Speech and Drama at College has provided “confidence and assurance in my ability to work towards a goal knowing I can achieve it”.

“It has enabled me to think on my feet and remain calm if something ‘goes wrong’, confidence in presenting anything, and a better understanding of the importance of putting in the work to achieve what I want,” he explains.

Guided by “a great teacher”, Tania McVicar, from Year 9, Joel has also taken direction on tackling Drama-related roles.

“Arriving at College on a Drama scholarship, Speech and Drama was another opportunity to take up, and discover where it would take me,” he says. “I could not have really seen myself taking on roles like directing a House Play when I was in Year 9, but Speech and Drama has helped me with my confidence and assurance in order to do so. And my teacher has been persistent and patient, guiding me to achieve my goals from my first year at College.”

Those achievements include a Director’s Award for the Corfe House performance in the 2021 REACTION House Plays and a Director’s Award and Actor Award in 2023, along with multiple performances in various productions.

Benedykt’s commitment to Speech and Drama was nurtured at The Cathedral Grammar School in Year 6 by teacher Lucie Durkin.

“She was a great teacher who navigated my timidity in those years,” he recalls. “I chose to do Speech and Drama because I lacked confidence in my ability to speak, and that meant I was often unclear about what I was trying to say. I kept going over myself, stuttering, and pausing – especially in front of a class. This would naturally be a barrier to me in the future.”

Moving to College, Benedykt has appreciated the “unwavering support” of Tania McVicar, citing “her ability to inspire confidence and help others ‘bring the words off the page and onto the stage’ as unparalleled”.

“It has a lot to do with the focus and attention of a one-on-one setting, as well as her own personality and skills in analysis, composure, and communication,” he points out.

Joel adds that “while I have had to look ahead, and dedicate some time to Speech and Drama each week alongside sport, NCEA and everything else – and, naturally, the workload increases – ultimately, I have never found it overwhelming, and definitely worth the effort.”

Benedykt believes that “if you are thoughtful about how you approach Speech and Drama and focus on works or topics that interest you, it becomes an extension of your hobbies, or, alternatively, as a way to further your understanding of what you are learning at school”.

“I have often used Speech and Drama as a way of furthering not only my speaking skills and confidence, but as a conduit for my own interests or for what I am studying in class,” he says.

“Speech and Drama can be incredibly useful in English classes since performance and analysis of a character in a work will develop your understanding of that work and character in a wholly different way to simply reading the words on the page. More often than not, you must get a feel for the character and their actions, who they are interacting with, and their environment. It is even better if you can use that text as both your end-of-year essay or speech for school, and as one of your performances in Speech and Drama.”

While Joel is now focusing on university, heading to Auckland to study architecture, “if any opportunities encompassing elements of acting cross my path, I will be more than happy to commit to that chance and see where it takes me”.

“Put simply, Speech and Drama has helped me across the board, giving me confidence in presenting and, in the future, bringing ideas to a workplace, along with the perseverance to accomplish my career goals, and the self-assurance to take risks in evolving a career,” he says. “To any Year 9 student considering Speech and Drama, give it a go. You will gain skills and experiences that will help you heaps in other areas of College, and even well beyond.”

While Benedykt has “gained more confidence to speak and be heard in class, at home, and on stage”, he also feels more well-prepared for post-College life.

“The nature of the Speech and Drama examinations and the numerous performances and talks that need to be prepared have given me greater skills in development and performance planning, as well as ways to expedite the process through integrating my research or development with my studies or interests,” he says. “All of this lifts my speaking ability, which is critical for communication and leadership. Undoubtedly, these skills will be highly useful in my future careers in law and accounting, where an ability for oration and thorough planning are integral to those roles.”

For any young students debating undertaking Speech and Drama, Benedykt highlights the often used school phrase – “Make the most of the opportunities that College gives you”.

“Speech and Drama will help you be more articulate and striking. If you want to improve your acting or get started, Speech and Drama will be able to help you acquire the skills necessary to do so, like breath control, acting methods and techniques, and voice modulation. The combination of these allows you to command attention on stage, further your education in class, and inspire confidence in yourself and others in your day-to-day life while finding a new appreciation for your work and your interests.”

He also plans to aim higher, hoping to achieve LTCL (Licentiate), backed by the confidence and self-belief to speak out and be heard.