The show must go on ... and on

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Kids on Stage packages aim to spread the science message far and wide, says Judy Mackie

Some theatre groups aspire to the Mousetrap phenomenon: to hit on a show that runs and runs. Live Wire Productions, Scotland's longest-established mobile science theatre in education company, aims to go that bit further.

Its goal has been to develop sustainable drama experiences - the kind that survive long after the final curtain call.

"We want to make sure the message gets out there and stays out there, irrespective of the presence of Live Wire actors," says Vanessa Chew, founder and managing director of the 12-year-old Aberdeen-based charity which uses colourful interactive experiences to promote health improvement, citizenship and environmental issues in schools and the community.

The company's diverse programme of fun drama productions and workshops has enthralled and engaged audiences around Scotland and some parts of England.

Within the schools programme alone there are 30 outreach showspresentations, including Munch and Foody, a healthy eating puppet show for nurseryinfant stages; Brief Encounters, which deals with depression in young adults; The Crimestoppers Game Show (P5-S2) and The Ant Race (P4-7), which focus on citizenship issues. Then there are environmental dramas such as Thunderstruck (Weather and Climate for P5-S2), Who says it's Rubbish! (Living ThingsEnvironment for P1-4) and Paraffin Young (FuelsHydrocarbons for P6-7).

The Live Wire team has now risen to the challenge of how to reach more schools more effectively within a shorter period.

Years of talks and plans with teachers, local authorities, police, health and voluntary organisations have come to fruition and the magic ingredients of accessibility and sustainability have been achieved. The company's innovative Kids On Stage musicals are ready to rock and roll.

The Kids on Stage packages are flexible, three-tier resources for use in the classroom, as short assembly performances or as full-blown shows to entertain and enlighten pupils, staff and parents.

It's a Jungle Out There!, an internet safety show for upper primary children, supported by BP, is based on the innovative Bizzikid website developed by Live Wire production manager Sharon Marshall, and has been wowing schools throughout Grampian since its launch last year.

Hooked!, a drugs education rock musical funded by Scotland Against Drugs, is being distributed free this year to all primary schools in Scotland.

The third package to date, Uncomfortable Shoes, addresses a range of issues, including drug and alcohol misuse, bullying, depression and young carers, and is currently being piloted by three Aberdeen secondary schools, with the support of Shell UK Limited.

Each resource pack includes notes for teachers, scripts, sheet music, a CD with a performance backing track and vocal track for rehearsals, dance routines, an interactive CD-Rom, and class activity sheets, fact sheets and background information.

More musicals, on issues such as alcohol awareness, healthy eatingobesity, diversity and inclusion, and environmental awareness, are now waiting in the wings for funding.

"Kids on Stage brings issues to life for youngsters and gives teachers an interactive programme that they can access themselves, without us,"

explains Ms Chew. The resources can be used in different contexts and across different areas of the curriculum, to suit the school's own requirements. "We've never subscribed to the off-the-shelf 'Cinderella slipper' syndrome," she adds.

"Far better to find the right size of shoe in the first place, and that's why we work with schools and the agencies who commission us to find out what's needed before we develop a programme."

A science graduate with a background in workplace training, Vanessa Chew developed Live Wire while working at Aberdeen's interactive science education centre, Satrosphere. Today, the company, which relies on funding for projects, comprises a team of trained actors, teachers, facilitators and presenters, who use the spectrum of dramatic arts, original scripts and colourful props to tackle contemporary issues.

"We don't shy away from any subject," explains Sharon Marshall, a classically-trained musician and recent recruit who says her latent scriptwriting skills have blossomed, thanks to Live Wire's encouragement.

"Uncomfortable Shoes has probably been our most challenging project to date, as it covers such a range of social issues. From the feedback we've received so far, we seem to be striking the right note with pupils, teachers and parents." For a theatre in education company specialising in musical productions, that's a satisfying achievement.

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