Local filmaker Tony Britten (right) with author Paul Kildea and Gresham pupils left to right Jack Gillette, William Strong, Callum Chapman,Christopher Theobald and Nick Stromberg who appeared in the film. Photo: Steve Adams

Britten film premieres at Gresham’s

Sunday, February 10, 2013
5.11 PM

A documentary drama charting the early life of a famous composer from the region has premiered - at the school he once attended.

Benjamin Britten - Peace and Conflict, which has been produced for Capriol Films looks at Britten’s life at Gresham’s School when he was a boarder from 1928 - 1930.

Britten, the most noted British classical composer of the 20th century, was born in Lowestoft on November 22 1913, and based latterly in Aldeburgh where he created the world-class arts festival still flourishing in his memory.

With clips shot on location at Gresham’s and performed by a number of Gresham’s pupils, who also provide some of the musical excerpts, the movie explores how Britten’s pacifist beliefs – reflected in his great War Requiem – developed from a teenage interest in communism and ongoing belief in the brotherhood of man.

The feature-length film also includes contributions from singer James Gilchrist and pianist Iain Burnside and narration by Oscar-winning actor John Hurt who now lives in North Norfolk and who attended the premiere of the film, held at The Auden Theatre based at Gresham’s, on Saturday .

Included in the filming was 18-year-old Chris Theobald, from Wells, who defied his lack of acting experience to secure a part that was expected to go to a professional – that of the infamous spy for the Soviet Union, one of the Cambridge Five, Donald Maclean.

Speaking at the premiere Mr Theobald said: “It gave me a fantastic platform to develop my acting skills and a true understanding of the art of film acting.”

Director of the film, Tony Britten said: “The school had a lot of involvement with the film, in a way they were almost like a co-producer.”

He added that they had decided to hold the premiere of the film at the Auden theatre as it was “fitting” especially in this, Britten’s centenary year.

Filming wrapped up at the end of September last year and went well. Mr Britten said: “The filming went a lot better than I had hoped, when a film production goes anywhere it can be like a circus and I know there were some worries from the school because we overlapped into term time, but it actually went really smoothly.”

He added that they were hoping to release the film to the general public in the spring.

The premiere of the film was followed by a talk with Mr Britten, who is a lifelong fan of the composer and lives at Holt, and Dr Paul Kildea who has published to a new biography of the composer, Benjamin Britten: A Life In The Twentieth Century.

Britten 100 has been launched to recognise the internationally-renowned composer Benjamin Britten and his work as part of a year of events marking the centenary of his birth.

The heart of the big Britten birthday celebrations are taking place in Norfolk and Suffolk, under the umbrella of the Familiar Fields co-ordinating partnership with the Britten-Pears Foundation and Aldeburgh Music.

For more information on events taking place up until november this year as part of the birthday celebrations, visit www.familiarfields.org and www.britten100.org/home

The Britten Arts Festival is also currently taking place at Gresham’s School with a broad range of events on offer. Further information is available via www.greshams.com/britten100.