NEWCASTLE’S Hunter Drama youth training company stages a mid-year concert-style show each year, with the performances built around a theme, so that the students can show the audience and themselves the skills they have developed.
In 2016, for example, the event was a Roald Dahl Festival, drawing in different ways on the writer’s plays, stories and characters.
This year, the company is presenting a Shakespeare Festival, which has 350 students, ranging in age from six to 21, in scenes taken from the Bard’s works or adapted to suit the nature of their training. And, with Hunter Drama moving in mid-2017 to its own and larger premises, the training skills classes have increased, with 21 now offered.
The acting classes range from training of pupils in kindergarten and year 1 to years 8 and 9, there are dance and singing classes, sessions for students of different ages interested in musical theatre, and for those who would like to be in television or film shows, and a senior group, the Actors Company, with its members aged 15 to 21, and who often choose the plays they want to stage.
The Shakespeare Festival is being staged at the Civic Playhouse from May 29 to June 2, with three programs that will each have two sessions and the students of different ages and skills represented in each show.
Show A can be seen on Tuesday, May 29, and Friday, June 1, at 6.30pm; Show B on Wednesday, May 30, at 6.30pm, and Saturday, June 2, at 2pm; and Show C on Thursday, May 31, and Saturday, June 2, at 6.30pm.
Each show will run for about 65 minutes, with the 31 acts spread between the three gigs. Details of each program are on Hunter Drama’s website, hunterdrama.com.au/festivals, and can be seen by clicking on Shakespeare Festival.
Tickets, $27, can be booked through Ticketek.
Hunter Drama associate director James Tolhurst, an actor and choreographer who is one of 11 teachers of the students, said there are excerpts from or references to most of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, with the longest acts being about 10 minutes.
A team of kindergarten and year 1 students, for example, do an act called Dreams of Magic and Love, which is built around the fairies in Shakespeare’s plays, including A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
The songs in the shows include Something Rotten, the title number from a Broadway musical that ran for almost two years after opening in 2015.
It is set in Shakespeare’s time, with two brothers upset that the Bard’s plays get staged but theirs don’t.
Other works include monologues and duologues by Shakespeare and amusing send-ups of his stories and characters.
AS you might suspect, from the tongue-in-cheek title, this is an amusing send-up of slasher films, well-written and staged by the student team led by writer and director Jack Madden. Its lively 90-minute running time begins with a woman (played by Imogen Bilinsky) being slain in a cabin by a knife-wielding figure wearing black and a bird-like mask. A year later, the venue is hosting a reunion for a group of people in their early 20s who went through high school together, with their words and actions indicating they still object to each other’s behaviour. A stranger, Curtis (Liam Callister), turns up with a slash on his chest, and the serial killer, BirdFace, is soon making the dead bodies mount.
The story has a good mix of laughs and shocks, moving between various rooms and the trees outside. The characters are very engaging, with the hostess, Petra (Brittany Cole), demanding that they hand over their mobile phones to keep the party moving. But Curtis hides his, which helps the survivors as the stabbings keep coming. The comedy also continues, with the actions and the characters’ clothes adding to the fun. There are a couple of original songs, and a scene from a Biblical slasher film that some guests are watching. The other actors – Katrina Hailstone, Jessica Leese, Meighan Winchester, Cassidy Lamey, Nicholas Osborne, Amanda Williamson, Patrick Wells, Talita Royal, Jack Madden, Nicholas Bruce, and Luke Hughes – add to the fun.
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