When they’re working their socks off at drama or musical theatre class each week, the end of term show is the chance for kids to shine – and, of course, to show mum and dad just how talented they really are. Which is why Kids’ Theatre Works!, who have already booked the stages at Ductac for their February showcase, are doing something just a little bit different this year. ‘This year, one of our biggest aims is that kids really progress though the classes,’ explains Emily Madghachian, the company’s director and founder. ‘We normally develop the shows based on workshops that we do with the kids, which are then written by our instructors. This year, however, we want to challenge them and excite them more than ever – to give all of our students an equal opportunity to have a good go up on stage.’
Taking place at the end of the first term (which has now been extended to finish in February to allow for more thorough rehearsal time, as opposed to the traditional three shorter terms), there will be two shows – one for the stage actors (Mini Sceneworks and Sceneworks, depending on age), and one for the musical theatre performers (Mini Showstoppers and Showstoppers), involving all of the kids within the Kids’ Theatre Works! family, from across all of the theatre company’s locations. Which, to put it mildly, is no mean feat when it comes to logistics. With rehearsals now well under way, Time Out Kids managed to sneak behind the scenes to get a look at all the time and effort that goes into the productions. Turns out Dubai really does have talent…
The theatre show
‘We decided on a Shakespeare presentation for the acting side of things, because we thought that it would feel like a challenge and a real commitment for our students,’ explains Neil Clench, who joined Kids’ Theatre Works! over the summer from the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. ‘If they have to tackle something that is at such a high level, performance-wise, it helps them gain a real understanding, enabling them to be much more creative in themselves rather than just standing up and saying lines.
They need to understand the “who, what, where and why”. The aim then is for us to make it very exciting.’ Six groups of drama students, ranging in age from seven to 14, will be tackling a selection of the Bard’s works, including comedy, tragedy, a history play and the sonnets, with each group learning their scripts that will be fitted together through the final performance. ‘We want all the children to be as involved as much as they can. It will become a kind of ‘Shakespeare puzzle’ where the narrative is woven through and flows together,’ says Neil.
The budding actors will be performing the narrative exactly how Shakespeare wrote it, rather than a ‘dumbed down’ version. ‘I don’t mind using the stories to help teach the younger classes,’ says Emily, ‘But when it comes to performance, it’s all in the text that Shakespeare wrote – you don’t need to change it.’
If that seems a little daunting, it’s a challenge the instructors are willing to take head on. ‘You have get past that barrier of intimidation that Shakespeare seems to have on people, even adults,’ adds Anna Stranack, who has been with the company for nearly two years. ‘Once you go through the meanings of the words that the kids perhaps don’t understand, and explain the concept, it just clicks, and kids love it.’
Musical theatre show
Over in the musical theatre rehearsals, the choreography is already well underway, as Anna guides her excited protégées through the steps. The musical theatre show, which will be performed separately from the drama show, will comprise of a medley of pieces from famous shows, including The Lion King, Annie and Bugsy Malone. ‘Over the 20 weeks of rehearsal, we expose them to more than one musical theatre piece in their classes,’ explains Charley Ashton-Court, who teaches drama and dance. ‘This way, it keeps them interested through the term and excites them too. The levels that the kids are at are all very different. In a way, it’s about creating consistency in the classes, so that they come out as well-rounded students at the end.’
Equally, it’s about identifying each child’s individual strengths, too, adds Emily, with the older kids getting the chance to perform both a musical and dramatic piece, and each class of younger students wowing with their song and dance performance skills. ‘With the advanced classes, in particular, the aim is to show off their talents and their technique, through dance, acting and through song,’ says Anna. ‘We’re hoping this will really show how adaptable the kids are – going from a musical scene in Annie, to an acting scene from Lion King, it really shows off their ability, and pushes them with their technique, using their bodies and voices in a certain way for each act.’
‘Most schools like ours will have three terms a year, but it’s difficult to consolidate the learning with a group of kids that only come in for one hour a week, with six days in between each session,’ says Emily. ‘We decided that if we lengthen the time, it gives them more opportunity for them to work on these techniques. This February showcase is all about what they’ve learned – how they’ve progressed –we want the parents to see how much they’ve achieved in that time, and really feel the wow factor.’