Prior's Field September 2018

Summer Drama at St Benedict�s School

Published Monday 8th of August 2011 09:33:09 AM

From the opening scene, with the wind whistling through empty buildings, to the end, with its slow motion flashback, �Skellig�, the summer production at St Benedict�s School, was a gripping and intense drama. The audience sat riveted, almost willing the happy ending that the play finally provided. The actors were Middle School pupils, aged from thirteen to fifteen.

The play is based on the novel by David Almond, selected in 2007 by judges of the CILIP Carnegie Medal for children's literature as one of the ten most important children's novels of the past 70 years. Michael moves with his family into a dilapidated house. Exploring, in the garage, he finds a strange man, Skellig, and decides to look after him. Soon this man takes over Michael�s life. Michael and his parents are anxious as his new baby sister has been born prematurely and may not live. Luckily, Michael meets Mina who is home schooled and is interested in nature, drawing and poems by William Blake to which her parents introduced her. She helps Michael move Skellig into an abandoned house that is held in trust for her. They discover that he has wings, although they are dry and folded up, and that he seems young and beautiful. Michael's baby sister comes dangerously close to death and must undergo heart surgery. His mother goes to hospital to stay with the baby and, that night, dreams or sees Skellig come in, pick up the baby and play and dance with her. The baby survives and is named Joy.

Thirteen year old James Porter played the key role of Michael with a conviction that went straight to the heart. Crotchety and arthritic, �twenty-seven and fifty-three� Skellig (Oliver Maynard) gained the audience�s sympathy as the drama progressed and eccentric Mina (Madeleine Davidson-Houston) galvanised Michael to action. Catherine Bench played Mum with a maturity that belied her years, with Dimitris Kouimtsidis as Dad. At regular intervals the audience was brought back down to earth by the classroom and hospital scenes, during which teacher Rasputin (Emre Kose) and Doctor McNabola (Aidan Fusco) injected their particular brand of humour. A particularly moving passage was when Miss Clarts (Ilayda Nijhar) read a story about Skellig which Michael had written, predictably dismissed by the class as complete nonsense.

Director John Padden put his unmistakable stamp on this production with innovative use of stage and props, changing backgrounds with remarkable speed. This was a classic performance and a joy to watch.
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