High School Musical was first performed at Manor House School in 2008 with the lead roles played by alumnae, Amber and Amy. As we return to East High School in 2021 for our second Senior School rendition, we interview both former pupils to reminsce!
High School Musical was chosen as the Senior School production this year at Manor House School, Bookham and, whilst the drama production would usually have been performed at the end of the Spring term, this year it will be recorded in early May and then broadcast to parents and family members shortly afterwards via a digital platform. These are very different times to 2008 when the first production of High School Musical was performed over three nights to a packed house of Manor House families and local community members. We caught up recently with former starring pupils, Amber (Gabriella) and Amy (Troy), to relive their memories and find out what they're doing now ...
When did you join and leave Manor House?
Amber: September 2003 - July 2008
Amy: I joined in 2004 (Year 7) and left in 2009 (Year 11).
Where did you spend your Sixth Form and University years? What did you study?
Amber: I went to sixth form at St. Johns, Leatherhead and gained A Levels in English Literature, Psychology and Business Studies. I then went on to Warwick University to study a BSc in Psychology. After that, I moved to Yorkshire and did a further Postgraduate Degree at Sheffield Hallam University to complete my teaching qualification.
Amy: I left Manor House for Godalming College and studied History, English Literature, Sociology and Performing Arts for A Levels. I then went to the University of Bath and studied Sociology achieving a 2:1.
What are your memories of the 2008 High School Musical production?
Amber: I played the role of Gabriella in the 2008 production and it was one of the happiest memories I have from my time at Manor House. I really enjoyed the fact that, at the time, High School Musical was HUGE and all of us absolutely adored the film. The second film had just been released and we were obsessed with the storyline and the characters. I also developed a really nice friendship with Amy (who played Troy) despite us being in different year groups and we are still friends on social media to this day!
I remember that the ‘kissing scene’ proved to be a challenge, trying to pretend to do it behind a basket ball and not catch the eye of anyone in case we burst out laughing! I also recollect that I wore a white dress for the final scene and people were horrified because, of course, Gabriella wore red! I think the thing I most enjoyed was the fact that I actually managed to play a lead role during my time at MHS. When I started in Year 7, I always wanted to be one of the main characters but never felt good enough. I took part in every single show that took place while I was there and when I reached Year 11 and got the leading role alongside Amy, I couldn’t believe it. It gave me such a huge confidence boost and proved that hard work and lots of singing lessons do actually work!
Amy: Our previous musicals had been Oliver and West Side Story so HSM was a much more modern play, which was exciting. I remember the auditions well; I don’t think I had ever sung in front of such a big group of people and I was very nervous. Mrs Williams asked us to stand in a cycle and sing a song from the play. I was given the role of Troy and was totally shocked to be given one of the lead parts. I was really enjoying drama at the time and was confident acting but singing was another matter. I am quite tall and had always been the tallest girl in my year at school so I wasn’t surprised that I was given the male lead either!
Rehearsals for MHS productions were always fun; it was great to be with your friends after school doing homework together and just generally having a good time. Although I also remember it being tiring. Amber and I got on really well, she was the year above me, but we clicked straight away and that certainly helped as we had to spend a lot of time together rehearsing. Overall, I have amazing memories of that time.
What was your path to the work you’re doing now?
Amber: I always loved school as a child as it provided an amazing escape for me. I thrived when I was in the classroom and I think I’ve always wanted to be able to encourage others to feel the same. After working in many different roles in a school, I finally took the plunge and did my teaching degree and I teach Year 6 in a primary school in Yorkshire now. Now that I also have my own children (a little boy and a girl on the way!) I just want to carry on encouraging my own children as well as the ones I teach to always dream big, because even though you think you could never do it, you can! That’s why I think I have always worked with children and within an educational setting as we give children the toolkit to where they want to go in life.
Amy: I left University not really knowing what I wanted to do and ended up joining a Headhunting firm which has led me into my current position. I currently work for a Omnicom Media Group which is a Global Media Agency in their Human Resources team.
What memories stand out from your Manor House School days?
Amber: Way too many to count! Some of my favourite moments definitely revolved around music and drama (thank you Mr Pratt and Miss Williams!) and I loved languages, particularly Spanish. I was heartbroken when I was brought down with flu and couldn’t go to Spain on the trip! I always remember Asian Week at school being so fun and full of activities. English was my favourite lesson at school and I wish I could speak to Mrs Boulton again as her Cornish wit and straight-talking ways is something I miss. One school trip I always remember was going to see ‘The Woman in Black’ as part of drama GCSE and I couldn’t sleep for a week afterwards- I still can’t bring myself to watch the film!
Amy: Mostly it is the close-knit nature of the school and the one on one care and attention we got from teachers. It really is like nothing else and you don’t realise how lucky you are at the time. It was also the friendships I created; my two best friends are from MHS and were made in my time there (Harriet and Sophie).
What is a typical day for you now? What are some of the challenges?
Amber: I wake up very early to make sure my little boy is ok and settled with his dad or his grandma before I drive to work. A teaching day is never the same and there are lots of challenges along the way; time keeping, preparation of lessons, ensuring all children can access the learning I am providing, as well as behaviour management! However, now that I am expecting again, I am shielding at home and I teach remotely as well as supporting other year groups planning. This can be challenging if you aren’t used to the curriculum for that year group but it is a lot quieter that’s for sure! When I come home, if I’m not working, my family and I usually go out for a nice walk and make as many memories as we can or we spend time decorating our new house trying to make it perfect for our growing family!
Amy: Well the last year hasn’t been ‘typical’ in any sense of the word. My husband and I welcomed our son Harry in October 2019 so most of my maternity leave was spent in lockdown and since returning to work, I have been working from our dining room table. The main challenge I have is juggling being a Mum and working four days a week. It is tough to find the balance and I definitely feel guilty when I am not with my son all the time, but it is good for both of us and I want to have a career. I am also studying to complete an eighteen month CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management, so once my son is in bed I am then spending time completing that.
I feel strongly that the phrase ‘women can have it all’ is rubbish! It is a juggle and it isn’t easy and I think we should be vocal about that, but it is all worth it (if that is the path you choose)!
What roles of responsibility did you hold, if any, whilst at Manor House School e.g. sports captain, prefect, form captain, House Captain and how did these roles prepare you for the future?
Amber: I took on the roles of Prefect and Form Captain while I was at MHS. These taught me the valuable skills of commitment to a role, time keeping and ensuring I was always available should anyone have any concerns or worries they wanted to talk to me about. These are skills I have definitely taken into my career and they paved the way to being successful in my teaching role now.
Amy: I was Head Girl and this role prepared me for the workplace. You have to juggle different opinions and views and you need to be really organised. Moreover, the public speaking duties meant I was more greatly prepared for presenting to clients and stakeholders in my professional role.
What advice would you give to those planning for a career in your field?
Amber: My advice would be to go for it if teaching is something you’re passionate about. If you really want to feel like you are making a difference this would be a good career to choose. Talk to teachers and those who work in schools and glean all the information you can. I always struggled to take criticism but when you start working, it’s important to take the feedback you get and learn from it as much as you can. Remember, it’s nothing personal! It’s also important to always remember the privileges that we are provided with. Not all people have the same things and I work in a deprived area where it can sometimes be shocking to see and hear some of the things small children have gone through. It’s important to gain a thick skin but remain sensitive to those who need it most. Most importantly, you must find ‘you’ time and switch off from the job.
Amy: There are so many avenues into human resources, and you don’t need to go to University. There are some great apprenticeship schemes which give you a qualification and hands on learning at the same time. Also completing a CIPD course is a good place to start, you don’t need any experience to do some of the lower levels and this will demonstrate to employers that you are keen on entering HRM.
Who has inspired you along the way?
Amber: A number of strong women who have overcome adversity and gone on to help others come out the other side. These women range from Malala Yousafzai to Mrs Hinch!
Amy: Lots of people! Mostly strong normal women all from different parts of my life and for different reasons. My mum because she is just fantastic and especially over the last year has been a huge emotional support from a distance. My two best friends who are wonderfully different but inspire me in different ways; Harriet because of her overwhelming kindness and empathy that she shows to everyone and Sophie because of her adventurous spirit and thoughtfulness.
What skills or world view did you develop at MHS that served you well during your sixth form and university years, and beyond?
Amber: A commitment to my studies. I was always encouraged and praised at Manor House for being committed to working hard.
Amy: That strong women who come together can do great things.
And lastly… what would your super power be if you could choose one?
Amber: The ability to talk to animals! I’d love to be able to know what my dogs want and when they want it and for them to be able to tell me if anything hurts or they don’t feel well.
Amy: Given our current situation, it would be to clear the world of Covid19!
We wish Amy and Amber the best of luck continuing with their future careers and we look forward to watching the 2021 rendition of High School Musical.
28th April 2021 by Manor House School