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Creative talents find a platform

Fife's annual primary schools drama festival involves pupils physically, socially and creatively, Miranda Fettes reports

Roaring, shrieking, miming, laughing, singing, dancing, foot stamping and bull-fighting were just a few of the things taking place at the Lochgelly Centre in Fife.

With 45 schools and 1,420 pupils participating in 61 performances, the sixth annual drama festival for Fife primary schools was the biggest one yet.

The festival was divided into nine shows during school hours last week. At each show, a handful of schools performed about seven productions of 10 to 15 minutes. Performers ranged from P1 to P7, with an average of 23 children in each play. At the end of each show, a guest speaker from the world of theatre commented on the performances, commended the children and gave pointers to non-specialist teachers as to how to take drama forward.

On Thursday afternoon, Cardenden, Dunnikier, Pitteuchar East, Lochgelly West and Benarty primary schools took to the stage.

Cardenden put on two productions: a P1 performance of "Sleeping Beauty", involving 25 children, and a P7 melodrama called "Good Sir" with a cast of 12.

The P1s skipped around the stage, with the king and (much taller) queen, baby princess, good fairies and evil fairy, who arrived with a crash of thunder in a truly wicked manner. When they all fell asleep, the stage was still until the prince showed up. Smoke, green lighting and music added effect.

Dunnikier's "Pied Piper" filled the stage with rats, fat ones, skinny ones, brown ones and grey ones, played by P4s.

The P5s transformed into beasts for "Where the Wild Things Are", with plenty of roaring, gnashing of teeth and displays of claws. The message was that Mum is really on your side and unruly behaviour can lead to a lonely existence.

Pitteuchar East had 15 P4 and P5 children performing "The Mean King and the Crafty Lad", about a king who spends his time counting gold and looking in the mirror and ignoring the poor, until he learns his lesson and becomes generous and kind.

Two dozen P6s from Lochgelly West performed "Summer Holiday", a comedy about a family arguing over where to go. Mum wanted to see Italy, Dad to stay in Scotland, the daughters to visit France and the sons fancied a trip to Spain or Italy. The audience is treated to can-can, football, bullfighting and catwalk models.

At the end of the programme guest speaker Anthony Strachan, a professional actor from Fife, congratulated the schools for their hard work and commended the children on their strongest points.

Cy Pirie, the principal visiting teacher of drama for Fife schools, has been involved in the festival since its inception. "It's all about empowerment and participation," he says. "It's open to every school that wants to take part. Getting pupils up there to deliver a line is physically giving them the stage to discover their self-confidence.

"There is a hunger for self-expression we are helping to feed."

Maureen Liddell, the support service manager for Fife Council's visiting teacher service, says: "The festival provides a forum for Fife primary pupils to share the products of the drama experience in school. The Lochgelly Centre gives them an opportunity to work on a well-equipped stage. The festival is the ideal time to show off the many skills and techniques that are acquired in drama classes throughout the region."

In the past the drama festival has featured mime, music, masks, puppets and dance. Pupils are involved in the design and making of their props, scenery and costumes as well as devising their performances. Visiting teachers support class teachers in developming the skills required.

"The challenges afforded by the creative process help to develop co-operation, build confidence and enhance communication skills. Few other projects involve pupils intellectually, physically, socially and creatively at the same time," Ms Liddell says.

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