16 February 2019
The performing arts faculty have been staging Aladdin this week. Overall, students and staff involved totalled 100 and the show’s spirit dominated the last week of half-term,whilst USH adopted an intuitive-supporting role. Schools often consider this kind of thing as ‘extra-curricular’ but I see that this is the curriculum. With so much learning happening, how could this be considered ‘extra’?
The planning and delivery of this experience demonstrates the profound impact of immersive learning on children. The richness of the experience, deepened by staging the show in a professional theatre, was there to see last night on everyone’s faces. I felt the pull of our community going above and beyond for our students. Many schools these days have splendid purpose-built theatre spaces, but for those without, I see it as essential that students get the ‘real deal’ and benefit from contact with professional resources, professional staff and professional expectations. The Point Theatre at Eastleigh delivers every time and helps us teach the students that the creative process is a cognitively and physically demanding pursuit.
In the week residency, the change in children is noticeable. When the students happily agreed we needed to re-stage whole set pieces after first night feedback, we knew we had a very special company. Improvements were made throughout the run and taught students an important lesson in striving for excellence. Everyone was invested beyond 'self' to give the best show they could. The flying carpet required a complete re-work, not least beacuse it was (paradoxically) the heaviest piece of set in the show. That's showbusiness for you...a world of contradictions. And our actors embraced it with grace and wit.
The selection of the show and the diversity of the casting worked brilliantly and I noticed the nuances of diversity too. Every student brought their unique perspective to the experience, students who had never performed, students with anxieties and students stretching their thinking and feeling beyond previous limits.
The matinee to our JEP feeder schools further demonstrated the power of community, particularly when the cast met the audience and were welcomed with spontaneous autograph requests. Staff stood warmed beyond words. What made me happiest was that in the natural order of events, our students weren’t just demonstrating our school values, they were the values. When we make meaning from healthy mainstream experiences like this one, it prevents children from racing to the extremes to feel fully alive. Essentially, they find a new sense of belonging. Aladdin is all about the power of belief and ‘diamonds in the rough’- need I emphasise the metaphor?
Congratulations to everyone involved in this year’s show and thank you.