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What a performance!

On Friday we’ll be saying goodbye to our Year 6 classes, their primary education behind them, ready to move on to secondary school and the new challenges that come their way. They’re well prepared for the journey ahead and leave us full of confidence, having experienced such a rich curriculum, achieved highly in their SATs and, last Thursday evening​, performed a memorable leavers’ production to the school community.

Those of you who saw ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ will confirm that the quality of the performance was nothing short of astonishing, with every child singing, acting and dancing with utter joy, totally confident that their show was really rather special. Our Year 6 productions have come on a bit over the years, but getting it right is perhaps not quite as straightforward as you might think.

Firstly there’s the problem of choosing the right show. The reality is that unless a scene features a parent’s child, for everyone else the acting part can seem like a bit of a wait for the next song to come along. So a successful production needs good songs, and lots of them. If you saw the show ‘The 60s in 60 minutes’, you will know what I mean. This winning formula stitched together a collection of the best songs from the decade for everyone’s enjoyment. I suggested ‘The 70s in 70 minutes’ might be a good sequel, or perhaps ‘The 40s in 40 minutes’? And if the songs just happen to be a bit dreary, at least it would be short.

The script for a successful Year 6 show needs lots of characters so that everyone is involved. One way round this is to split the lead part, but this always creates confusion, especially for me. Then there’s the appropriateness of the theme. Inconveniently some of the best musicals are based on themes that might not be so appropriate for a cast of eleven-year-olds. We’re yet to perform ‘The Full Monty’, but a few years back our Year 6s did manage to pull off the dentist scene from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. My claim to fame is that, much against my better judgement, I put on a production of ‘Grease’ featuring an eleven-year-old Amy Winehouse playing the role of Rizzo. It was completely inappropriate in every respect, although I have to say she was rather good in this role. The highlight of my short career directing Year 6 productions however was ‘The Lion King’, performed in the round, starring our very own sports coach John as the wise mandrill, Rafiki. Ask John nicely and he’ll be more than happy to deliver the killer line, ‘the question is, ‘Who are you?’.

Deciding how much time to devote to rehearsals is a tricky one too. Not enough rehearsal time and the children are under-prepared – and they will always know if what they are performing isn’t quite up to standard. On the other hand, too many rehearsals and the rest of the curriculum stops for the second half of the summer term, children get bored and everything falls to pieces. These days I think we get the balance about right, as rehearsals are collaborative affairs and tend to be enjoyed by all children.

At Highgate Primary the bar continues to rise and our school productions really are of the highest quality, however we are always clear that the process of preparing for a show is every bit as important as the performance itself. With so many people involved in so many ways, children, teachers and parents, our productions brings our community together. The memory of last Thursday evening will live with our children forever and the confidence they will have gained from singing, dancing and acting on stage, in front of a packed hall, cannot be underestimated.

William