Around The Perse in 400 Years

Jonathan Black, aged 13
September 30, 2015

Jonathan Black (13 years old) blogs about being a member of the cast of a new play that dramatises The Perse’s history, Around The Perse in 400 Years. The play will have its premiere tonight, Wednesday 30 September 2015, to launch a year of 400th anniversary celebrations.

” We began the creative process in April, at which stage none of the cast had any idea of how interesting our school’s history was. We have learnt a lot from an original script, and devised and added our own ideas to the performance. It has been great to learn about the School’s history and the reasons behind the founding of the School. Since April, we have really gelled as a cast, and become good friends with people from across the School. “The thin end of the wedge, as we call it” – one of our favourite lines from the script that has made us laugh throughout rehearsals. There are over 100 roles the cast have to play, whether it be former teachers, Old Perseans, governors or royalty, and each role is very different to play.

Some of the most interesting parts of the school’s history include Guy Buncombe’s incident in the school’s boarding house and Ferdie Finch and his PE lessons. We have also enjoyed learning about The Perse’s Jewish boarding house – Hillel House – which is now the Pelican. The way the Jewish boys integrated in the School has fascinated us, and how The Perse lead the way in faith schools. Outside of the School’s history, we have had fun learning about 1615 Cambridge and the values Dr Perse wanted the School to foster.

On behalf of the cast, I would like to thank all the staff who have assisted us in putting this together, Miss Coxon and Mrs Mahoney for all their backstage support, and Mr Hawksworth for his great support and direction. It has been a fascinating experience and I am very excited to be part of the launch of the School’s 400th anniversary celebrations. ”


Here is a short excerpt from the script:

PERSE: Rouse’s goal was to revitalize the education of the boys at the Perse School. His most controversial and brilliant scheme was his employment of the Direct Method.

ROUSE is teaching the BOYS on stage.

ROUSE: For example, we do not say ‘The Latin for I walk is ambulo’ we….(walking) ‘Ambulo…’ When a certain number of words are thus learnt these are used to explain others and Latin is learnt very much as we learn English.

The BOYS get up and walk.

BOYS: Ambulo

ROUSE jumps around in the air in a joyful fashion.

ROUSE: Exsulto!

The BOYS laugh and follow suit.

BOYS: Exsulto!

ROUSE lets out a long, operatic style note…Laaaaa!

ROUSE: Canto…..

Once again the BOYS follow suit. ROUSE then leads them all into a lively rendition of his Latin Chantie: THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE.

ROUSE & BOYS: Habitat in cothurno

quem vides, anus:
tot habet ilia natos
ut velit mori.

primus est malus, secundus est malus,
nec ex tot ullus est quin usque vapulet.


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  1. October 2, 2015

    David Buscall Quo(1966)

    Thus far I have managed. Looking forward very much to the School 300 year history book. I left the school to join the world. Now I am waiting for the final chapter. The greatest of them all. Quo Vadis?
  2. October 1, 2015

    Ralph Yarrow (1969) Now Prof. of Drama UEA

    I wonder: what are the economics of privilege? Should I be contributing to them as an Old Persean? Or are they self-sufficient/smug/exploitative? These are hard, and perhaps for individuals, unfair questions. There are many perspectives and many responses. I think education is a process in which you can discover some of those responses as an embodied - not simply intellectual - engagement with the world you inhabit and inform. I challenge you to take that on board and to live it. we only really learn by unlearning you only rehearse in order to do it differently there are many kinds of knowledge and what we call revision needs to be just that do not succumb to what you are told but cannot feel check it out in your body, not just in your head and in any kind of contact you can have with what you are not: other worlds, other ethnicities, other languages, other systems, other structures do not take yes for an answer love each other