School plays in a foreign language have certain advantages over films. The actors speak slowly and clearly and the plots tend to be simple or familiar stories. This helps when the audience age ranges from infants to S6.
The curtain went up on Fete du Theatre 2006 earlier this month.
Rencontres Theatrales is a series of drama competitions organised by Valerie Drake, education attachee to the French Institute in Edinburgh.
Hutchesons' Grammar church building was the venue for a programme of short plays.
Cendrillon by Woodhill Primary in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, had it all: good accents and acting, humour, a grand ball, a happy ending and first prize. Auchencairn Primary, a rural school by the Solway, brought its usual French flair and every P4-7 pupil to the Cinderella story. They took home best musical award and singer Rosie Giblin was best actress of the day.
There were elegant masks in the production by Glasgow's Smithycroft Secondary of Le Petit Prince Hamish, based on the classic of almost the same name. The eponymous hero from planet Scotland tried to get everyone to draw his animal, the haggis.
Tommy Gilligan, of South Lanarkshire Council, chaired the jury. They were particularly impressed that Shawlands Academy, Glasgow, presented a cross-curricular work. With special effects, courtesy of the school's enthusiastic technician, Paul Riley, Litterhitters linked French with an environmental project.
One perenniel feature of Rencontres Theatrales is the rapt attention which the young audiences gives. Though they cannot understand every word, this is a real learning experience. There is obvious enjoyment and generous applause. A boy from Rothesay Primary said he had a book with every one of Les Fables acted by the Lomond school in Helensburgh. His own school gave a confident, humorous performance of La Chasse ... l'Ours.
A P2 from Cross Arthurlie, Barrhead, pitted wolves against wizards with pointy hats and black binbags, charging across the stage crying: "Je n'aime pas les loups!" The homespun wolves retaliated with "Je n'aime pas les sorci res!" The accents were pure. In East Renfrewshire, every school from nursery up teaches French and foreign language assistants are available to every school once a week.
Valerie Drake is, after four years, nearing the end of her posting. As education attachee, she was responsible for, among other things, broadening the scope of Rencontres Theatrales beyond Edinburgh .
The Turriff event will be on March 3, the Fortrose staging is provisionally planned for March 10 and the Edinburgh event for March 16. After that Valerie bows out. Ah, c'est la vie.
Best play: Woodhill Primary, East Dunbartonshire
Best acting: Rothesay Primary, Argyll and Bute
Best costumes: Cross Arthurlie Primary, East Renfrewshire
Best musical: Auchencairn Primary, Dumfries and Galloway
Best actress: Rosie Giblin, Auchencairn Primary
Prix d'encouragement: Mearns Primary, East Renfrewshire
French language prize: The Lomond school, Argyll and Bute
Best comic play: Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire
Jury's special prize: Smithycroft Secondary, Glasgow
Best original play: Shawlands Academy, Glasgow
Best acting: Lenzie Academy, East Dunbartonshire