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Pupils enchanted by magic of theatre

(left to right) Sunderland College drama students Shauna Lebihan, Cally Mackenzie, Kaitlyn Anderson, Adam Pace, Jamie-Leigh Price and Cameron Mair (dragon) with Barnes Infant Academy pupils Siddak Sigh, Jorja Duncan and James Curtis

Two well-known children’s stories have been brought to life for youngsters by Sunderland College drama students.

More than 250 pupils from Barnes Infant Academy and Barnes Junior School visited Bede Campus to watch budding actors perform in the college’s Arts Academy theatre.

The aspiring thespians invited the two schools along to showcase their stage adaptations of ‘A Patch of Black’ by Rachel Rooney and ‘Wolves in the Walls’ by Neil Gaiman, as part of their assessed ‘theatre for children’ module.

Twelve BTEC drama students created the shows, based on the popular books, and organised all aspects of the performance, including scripting, set design, choreography, props and music selection as well as casting.

Both of the stories carry a strong message about overcoming fears which the students wanted to convey to the youngsters.

Janine Rushworth, acting assistant head at Barnes Infant Academy, said: “It was a brilliant performance which brought the story to life for the children. It was great for them to have the experience of watching an adaptation through role play, and the children absolutely loved it.”

Gemma Whelam, drama lecturer, said: “This is the first time we have welcomed primary schools to our wonderful Arts Academy for our children’s theatre module, and it’s been fantastic to give the pupils the experience of watching the performance in our purpose-built theatre.

“For some of the children this may be one of their first theatrical experiences and from a cultural point of view, it’s really important they are exposed to theatre from a young age. It’s such a magical thing for them to be involved in and it does wonders for their imagination.”

As part of their studies, the students watched children’s theatre at Northern Stage, including productions of ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘Luna’, which inspired their creativity when producing the plays for the schools.

Eighteen-year-old drama student Shauna Lebihan, who performed in ‘A Patch of Black’, said: “It was really fun and enjoyable to perform in front of the children. They were very involved in the show and seemed to have lots of fun which made it exciting and rewarding for us. Before planning the show, we were taught techniques associated with children’s theatre such as use of song, narration, audience participation and puppetry, which we then brought together to create our performance.”

Gemma added: “The students have done an amazing job of pulling everything together for these shows. We instill the importance of being multi-faceted in the performing arts industry in order for them to sustain a career. It’s not just about being performers, they need to learn a whole range of skills so they can go out and set up on their own and be employable.”

In the past, students have travelled to schools and community venues to perform and have acted out children’s books including ‘The Snail and the Whale’, ‘Stick Man’ and ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’.

For more information on performing arts courses, ring 0191 5116000, email info@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk or click here.


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