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Finding Mat Finderling

23rd May 2022

On Sunday 22nd May, families, pupils, and staff joined us for an immersive, theatrical experience exploring the history of King Edward’s. The initial idea was imagined in 2020 by  Mrs Caroline Shouksmith, Head of Art. Working closely with Mrs Lynsey Cleaves, Director of Drama, the duo breathed life into the concept and it was truly worth the wait.

The event involving a wide number of pupils was a rich collaboration between Art, Drama, English, Music, and Sport Departments. The production was inspired by the story of a young boy called Mat Finderling who was abandoned on a doorstep and raised by nuns before joining King Edward’s in 1904.

According to Mat’s school report he was high spirited, a nice lad but troublesome. He joined the Royal Navy and died in his twenties while at his post on board the ship HMS Minto in World War I. Through delving into historical documents in search of details about Mat’s past pupils were able to learn what life was like over 100 years ago at the School.

Through magical environments, dance, drama, film, art, writing and immersive theatre the audience were led by costumed tour guides on a unique journey through the grounds and buildings of the School. The talented cast played a superb role in bringing some of the unique history of our School, with its ancient religious and royal foundation, to life.

Passing a working steam engine with historic re-enactors aboard, guests were directed to the Selborne Room, where they were welcomed with refreshments and a piano recital. Here the audience were met by their tour guides. Dressed in a spectacular array of costumes spanning the history of the School, from 1553 to the modern day, the tour guides led their groups around the campus. Giving expert guidance and information about the history of the buildings and the people who have spent their lives here.

The story played out via the following 6-minute-long scenes:

Bridewell Room: Drama performance

The Bridewell Room is filled with antiques and pictures from the School’s past. The audience met a merry band of players whose comedy performance gave insight into the lives of pupils in the early 1900’s at King Edward’s. The audience had a chance to learn what pupils ate, drank, studied, and wore. There was audience participation and a rock number to end!

QMH Lawn: Sports re-enactment

On the lawn the audience were confronted by a fierce teacher from the Edwardian era and watched pupils enduring a games session with strict rules. This ended in a tug of war and some healthy competition between parents in the audience!

South Side: ‘Snips and Snobs’ a performance art installation

Ghostly shadows shifted on a dark up-lit stairwell – cast from a suspended installation of Edwardian postcards written by pupils in English lessons. A cord was pulled, and cards fluttered down to be taken away. Tales unfolded of trades that boys once undertook – ‘Snips’ were tailors, ‘Snobs’ were bootmakers. From the art room a haunting melody could be heard of young Mat humming a tune whilst tailoring. A lone hammock swung in the smoky darkness beside him, hinting at the previous life of the room as: Dormitory 1.

Charter Hall: Dance through the ages

In a fabulously choreographed set our talented dance team danced their way through the decades showing how music and dance had evolved from 1553 to now. The dance troupe wore a recreation of the 1900’s naval uniform once worn in the School.

Studio Theatre: Film

A mini movie, accompanied by mini boxes of popcorn, played out on the cinema screen. The film depicted the beginning of Mat Finderling’ s life and his early days at King Edward’s Witley.

Ancient Tree: ‘Trees have ears’

Beneath the canopy of an ancient tree slung with multiple speakers, the audience listened to tales of former pupils recalling their memories of King Edward’s. It was an exceptional opportunity to listen to how the school has changed over the last century.

The Quad: ‘Grand Finale’

The audience gathered around the statue of King Edward to hear a poem that ties our School’s rich history with the present and looks to the future.

The evening was a wonderful success and would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our staff and pupils who worked tirelessly to bring the whole evening together. A special thank you goes to all staff, pupils and volunteers who took part or helped.

Mrs Shouksmith is currently working with a young film maker who is creating a video of the event to be shared in due course.

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