Monday, 06 February 2017
Pupils in Years 8 and 9 impressed audiences with their student-devised promenade production of Wonder, adapted from R. J. Palacio’s international bestseller of the same name.
Wonder pulls at the heartstrings with the tale of little August Pullman, following his first year at secondary school. Along the way, the story explores the complexities of school life and growing up while also emphasising how easy it is to hurt people, exploring social diversity and demonstrating how everyone has the potential to “choose kind”.
Boys’ Division Director of Drama Miss Lord said, “It’s difficult to find suitable superlatives to describe the quality of the cast’s performance when ‘Wonder’ is the title of the show. The quality of writing, peer-direction and performance were particularly impressive. I’m expecting wonderful things from this talented collective as they progress to senior productions. We are lucky to have such talented, thoughtful young people and the means by which to stretch their creative arts experiences.”
The promenade production used different venues around the Boys’ Division to create a variety of settings. The Great Hall was used for assembly scenes and became the Pullman household. The rear of the Hall stood in as a classroom for 100 people, with the cast playing children sitting among the audience to create an authentic ‘classroom’ feel. There was a move to the dining hall for scenes set at lunch, and even the corridors were put to use as the cast travelled the route to their summer camp: the Studio Theatre, which was transformed into the outdoors with tents, a campfire, and disco ball ‘starlight’.
Each night, Wonder offered an array of highlights. Students acting as teachers managed their ‘classes’ convincingly, and there was lots of comedic characterisation. At the summer camp, there were campfire sing-alongs accompanied by ukulele and hilarious tent skits that drew out the cast’s personalities as much as a sense of the novel’s characters. Student monologues offered introspective counterpoints to the action. Particularly memorable were the final lines of the performance, about learning to find the wonder in everyone and that it should be a rule that everyone gets a standing ovation at least once in their life.
Lighting and sound for Wonder was operated by Year 10 and Year 8 students, trained and supported by Boys’ Division technician Mr Deakin. The Boys’ and Girls’ Division Parents’ Associations also laid on a spread of cakes and drinks for the audience to enjoy.
The three performances of Wonder were a huge success, with appreciative audiences coming away with a real sense of ‘wonder’. Boys’ Division Headmaster Philip Britton and Girls’ Division Headmistress Sue Hincks both offered their congratulations to the cast and crew of the show, as did numerous parents and members of staff on the night and via social media following the production.
In the run-up to Wonder, Boys’ Division pupils in Years 7 to 9 carried out monthly form time activities related to the precepts set out by Mr Browne, the English teacher in Wonder. These included key phrases such as “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind” (Dr Wayne Dyer), “No man is an island, entire of itself” (John Donne), and “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can” (John Wesley’s Rule).
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