Thank God it's Friday

28th July 2006 at 01:00
Monday Year 6 are rehearsing their leavers' assembly. We want to encapsulate this unique time in their lives, represent the ethos of the school and make it a team effort where everyone has a chance to shine. Last year, we piloted The Company of Angels' Gap project and benefited from having professional theatre directors and gap-year drama students mentoring the children. They devised a remarkable piece of theatre that focused on the theme of transition. This year we're on our own - but Company of Angels' legacy has been inspirational. We choose West Side Story, use the more accessible songs and write just enough words to enable us to both tell the story and give every child a line to perform. They have been told that they can interpret their part as they see fit as long as they keep the gist of it - and don't turn it into a four-minute soliloquy.

Tuesday The girl playing Maria in the death scene has tonsillitis. In the interests of democracy, there are as many Marias as there are girls wishing to play her. We have two Anitas, several Tonys and a couple of Riffs and Bernardos. It works. The children are busy turning our top hall into Brooklyn. A parent has filmed the "rumble", choreographed by the teacher who runs the Capoeira after-school club, and we see the edited version. It looks great. This is now a multi-media production.

Wednesday There is a special type of exhaustion experienced by Year 6 teachers as they approach that all important performance deadline: fatigue spiked with adrenalin and nervous anxiety. Good news: Maria is getting better and should be in tomorrow.

Thursday Dress rehearsal performances today: key stage 2 in the morning and key stage 1 in the afternoon. The children, including Maria, surpass themselves and the morning performance is wonderful. The audience love it.

Year 4 write five-star reviews. Loads of mistakes in the afternoon - mostly mine. I forget to turn up the volume at the dance.

Friday I am approached by several children who want to check that I will remember their cue. Parents arrive sooner than expected and so witness some of the last minute stress. The show goes on and goes well. The children speak up and sing out and their performances are both believable and beautiful. And when they sing "somewhere, there's a place for us" - beneath a screen projecting the photographs they have taken of themselves around the school - we have a chance to reflect. They are growing up. It is time they moved on.

Val Rutt teaches part-time at Yerbury primary school in the London borough of Islington. Her second novel for nine to 12-year-olds, The Mystery of the Darkstone, is published by Puffin

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