A cast of more than 200 children took centre stage at Raglan Area School last week where they played to packed audiences with a new twist on a classic Lewis Carroll tale in which good won over evil.
And despite the logistics of having that many perform in what is essentially a gym, not a theatre, as year 0-6 assistant principal Celia Risbridger pointed out, the production of ‘Alice in Squanderland’ went off without a hitch from its midweek matinee to Thursday night’s grand finale.
A simple screen – placed this way and that with coloured curtains to set the scene, whether on earth or under it down the rabbit hole – was one of the few props used throughout the hour-and-a-half performances. Yet the production had the audience spellbound all the way, from the Cheshire cat’s matter-of-fact narration of events to the jubilant slaying of the mighty Jabberwocky.
In between – through all Alice’s trials and tribulations in attempting to rid Squanderland of its rubbish and rules set by the wicked Queen of Hearts, who screeched “off with your head!” at the slightest provocation – whole classes of 5-11 year olds, beyond recognition in make-up and elaborate costumes, danced, acted and sang as garden flowers, packs of cards, mad hatters, rabbits and more.
Meantime the ‘Clean Green Enviro Team’ battled for supremacy against the baddies and the meanies to get the wonder back in Squanderland.
The script and the banners were the children’s own for this part of the show, says Celia – testament to their learning around literacy, visual arts and science which drew upon concepts of deforestation, pollution and care of the planet.
Ten teachers worked with the school’s nine junior classes throughout terms two and three to produce the play. It was all woven together by local teacher and parent Andre Ngapo, who, as director, was also in charge of sound and lighting during the two performances.
Assistant director Angela Massey – along with fellow teachers and parents – prompted young actors and dancers discreetly from the sidelines, but hardly a line or a step was missed in an ambitious venture which Celia says has met with “really positive feedback”.
Work on mounting the production incorporated the school’s four core values, she adds: poutama or striving for excellence, manaakitanga or care of each other, whakawhanaungatanga or “interconnectedness” and kaitiakitanga or guardianship and conservation.
She’s convinced the months of hard work pulling it all together have been worthwhile with children learning and gaining confidence through the arts, and delivering the message there’s just one earth.