Fran Collier with some of the current crop of talented young performers

Article by Guy Bell: A Billericay based drama school's 20th year party served up classy cuisine and performances from pupils of yesteryear.

Frances' School of Drama's milestone was celebrated at Greenwoods Hotel and Spa on Saturday with an evening of singing, dancing and flash mobs.

The Stock venue welcomed 150 visitors to its grounds where the best of Billericay's drama talent performed throughout the night.

Fran Collier, founder and principal of the Laindon Road school, started off as a dance teacher originally helping out a close friend.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Fran Collier"]A friend of mine set up Alexandra's School of Dance and I helped out teaching there a little bit. Some of the children said they wanted to do drama and that was when I set up in Billericay. Thanks to word of mouth a lot of people began to hear about it after starting out with handing flyers out.[/quote]

The lack of drama schools in the town gave Fran the idea to begin her own establishment, which has since gone on to produce performances of the musical Hairspray, along with other firm favourites including Beauty And The Beast, The Jungle Book and Bugsy Malone.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Frances"]A good thing about our school is we aren't a franchise, so we are like one big family and we encourage everybody to take part.[/quote]

Fran had the pleasure of seeing her former pupils mix with her current crop before performing on stage between the pre-dinner drinks and main meal.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Frances"]It was so nice how many people came. The whole thing was like a wedding and a show at the same time. Greenwoods were fantastic and it was so beautiful there. It has had a refurbishment and it looked amazing. We had pre-dinner drinks and there is a new restaurant there with new chefs and the food was brilliant.[/quote]

And what for the school now that it's 20 years old? Fran's answer was resolute.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Frances"]The school will carry on with the drama and musical theatre. The friendships our pupils make are just fantastic and the ones who have left are still friends now. We are very lucky to have this big family.[/quote]

Article and image by Guy Bell, Ongar Gazette

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