MICHAEL NEILSON: These young actors should be proud

Michael Neilson
Michael Neilson

I always enjoy seeing school productions of West End shows. This month I was lucky enough to see two productions: Our House at Warden Park Academy and Billy Elliot at The Forest School.

Our House is based around the music of ska group, Madness. It tells the story of London boy Joe Casey, whose life splits in two after getting caught breaking into a house.

‘Good’ Joe takes one path in life and ‘bad’ Joe, another.

Both Joes love the same girl and luckily, she lives in both parallel worlds while we watch the two stories unfold.

It’s a clever piece of theatre and although there were some microphone issues on the night I saw it that did not diminish my enjoyment of the show. The cast performed well and the three actors who played the Joes and Sarah, should be especially proud of what they achieved.

Billy Elliot was performed by not only boys from Forest School, but also by girls from Millais.

As the original Billy unfortunately broke his arm two weeks before opening night, Billy was played by two actors, which was strangely reminiscent of Our House.

This production was on a grand scale with a large orchestra, big cast and superb lighting. There were times when I forgot I was watching a school’s performance as it had the feel and appearance of a professional production.

Every person on stage stayed in character throughout, participating fully no matter how small their role. The orchestra played beautifully, heightening the emotion of each scene as a good orchestra should. Billy is an ensemble piece and the entire cast were superb.

I cannot emphasise how strongly I feel about drama and the chance to perform being critical to the happiness and cohesion of school life.

Any child who is not brilliant academically or on the sports field, may have a talent for performing and that should not be denied to them.

Neither, in fact, should it be denied to the academically or sportingly gifted, who may also have an ability to shine on stage. It is every bit as important as sport, if not more so, as it teaches, communication skills, empathy and the ability to present all those wonderful academic ideas young people may have in their heads to their future employers and work colleagues.

These are vital life skills around which success in adult life is built.

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