Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Last night Angel and I went to watch the first performance of Star's Year 8 school play. There is a tradition at her school that Year 8 perform a play or musical before they move up to Upper School for Year 9. Angel's Year 8 play was Oliver!, performed with more enthusiasm than polish. The new headteacher is a drama enthusiast and has moved the bar up several notches. This year's play was Merrick, based on the life of Joseph "John" Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man (remember the film?).

Merrick was quite a challenge for youngsters of that age (12 and 13), but they did a great job. It was performed in the round, with the minor characters and chorus all sitting in a circle around the main floor area and moving in and out as the play required - the crowd had an important role in both conveying and manipulating emotion, being variously threatening to and supportive of Merrick. The boys who took the main roles of Merrick and his doctor Treves were excellent. Merrick's deformity was conveyed simply by acting, without any special makeup. The highlight for me was a monologue given by Treves describing Merrick's condition, while Merrick himself conveyed the reality of his disabilities simply by movement under a single green spotlight. Difficult to describe, but a real emotion grabber, beautifully acted by both boys.

Star is not really a drama person, so I was slightly surprised she wanted to be in the play rather than backstage, even as part of the chorus without a speaking part. I think she has enjoyed the experience - always a bit hard to tell with Star. She has certainly enjoyed several non-uniform days and missing lessons for rehearsals! All the extra rehearsal time definitely paid off, based on last night's performance. And I have to say I am in agreement with the headteacher, who feels that youngsters gain more from the challenge and experience of performing a well-rehearsed play than they miss from a few lost lessons.

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