Drama is provided as an extra-curricular activity at Coleraine Academical Institution. It aims to develop creativity, team work, self-confidence and self-esteem.
The Drama Society meets every Thursday at 3.30pm until 4.30pm and is open to all year groups. During these sessions pupils have the opportunity to participate in role-plays, script writing, mime and improvisation. They also get technical lessons in lighting and sound. All these activities take place in the purpose built Drama Theatre, which also has the added benefits of a Green Room and Props/Costumes Area.
Pupils who are members of the Drama Society may also be given the opportunity to perform at school events such as Open Night, the Christmas Carol Service and Spring Concert.
Pupils throughout the school are also encouraged to take advantage of the variety of productions held at the local Riverside Theatre in order to develop their appreciation of Drama Performances. Recent visits include performances of ‘A Street Car Named Desire (2005)’, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005)’ and ‘Death of a Salesman (2006)’ which were attended by the English Literature A-Level classes and members of the Drama Society.
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The curtains were slowly drawn back, smoke began to curl and twist amongst the props on-stage and an eerie, shadowy figure stepped into the spotlight…our first public performance of “Blood Brothers” had begun!
This was the first full-length play that CAI had performed since Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” in 2002. The tremendous task of reviving productions at CAI was tackled by Miss Magee (Director) and Mrs Taggart (Producer) after being approached by both our students and new Headmaster, Dr Carruthers.
“Blood Brothers”, one of the longest running musicals in the West End and a massive success all over the world, began – as all the best things do – rather more humbly than the huge hit it has become. Willy Russell was commissioned to write a 70-minute play for Merseyside Young People’s Theatre after his success with Educating Rita. The small group toured sixty secondary schools in 1981 performing this initial script with a cast of five and only minimal props.
This original piece was the basis of one of the most acknowledged modern musicals to come out of Liverpool. Although the musical was unavailable for performance, we felt that the play itself was just as gripping and enjoyable and so in October we began working on bringing the script to life.
Set in Liverpool during the 1950s, the play tells the story of a working class mother, Mrs Johnston, desperately struggling to bring up a large brood of children on her own. On discovering she is pregnant with twins she is emotionally blackmailed into giving one of them to Mrs Lyons an affluent, but infertile, lady of leisure.
The brothers are raised apart in very different circumstances, unaware of an ominous superstition which threatens their fragile existence. However, fate draws them back together and their lives, hopes and dreams become entangled once more.
Daniel Livingstone and Adam Goudy were cast as the boys in their later years. Adam has shown get interest in drama having been involved with the school drama club since 3rd year and he was eager to perform in a full length production. Daniel, a star on the rugby field prior to an unfortunate injury at the start of the year, had never performed on stage before but was eager to learn and gave an impressive debut performance. Rugby’s loss was definitely our gain!
Christopher McLaughlin, a natural performer, delivered a captivating and charismatic portrayal of Mickey. Playing his twin brother Eddie, was Calum McBurney who gave an endearing performance as the less street-wise of the pair. Together their antics on stage entertained and amused the audience and provided some light relief in comparison to the tragic conclusions of the second half.
The role of the Narrator, an ominous character who lurks around the stage in a menacing manner, was expertly portrayed by Peri-Jake Stynes. I am told that his performance was so chilling that it evoked the response of ‘oh look here comes Mr. Scary’ from one of the audience members.
The roles of the socially biased Policeman and dry witted Milkman were played by Mark Braithwaite and Craig McConville respectively and both received a warm reaction from the crowd. Whilst our two youngest members of the cast, Jack Perry and Nicholas McKessick, demonstrated acting skills that will surely continue to ripen…maybe these two will be playing our lead roles in future years. The other Johnston kid was played by Alexandra Magee…yes, you DO recognise the surname…who would’ve thought that there were two drama queens in the family!?!
Of course we could not have performed “Blood Brothers” with a solely male cast. The tradition of inviting pupils from Coleraine High to perform alongside CAI pupils was reintroduced this year. Our stage was graced by Niomi Knight who played Mrs Johnston. Thanks to Mrs Cameron’s tuition she expertly opened the first scene with a heart-warming rendition of “The Marylin Monroe Song.” Ilea Hendron portrayed the mentally unhinged Mrs Lyons and her closing moments ensured that the finale ended with a bang!
Danika Shepperd and Rosie Alcorn both played Linda at her various ages of development. Rosie’s failed seduction of “Mickey” provoked a raucous response from the audience and her energy ensured a consistent pace during scenes. Danika on the other hand portrayed a more complex, older Linda who was torn between the two brothers. Her performance was a credit to her determined and enthusiastic approach to rehearsals…despite a brief moment of concern when she realised to her horror that she had to cover her hair with a dubious brown wig! However, thanks to the help of Urban Hair Dressing, Mrs Reid & Miss Murphy the whole cast really looked the part.
The technical side of things were handed over to the very capable Derek Simpson whose lighting techniques added great atmosphere to the stage, whilst Mr Gault controlled the sound desk with ease. Miss Pinkerton and Miss Waters tracked down our costumes, going to any lengths to obtain that perfect look – even to the point of raiding a number of staff’s wardrobes!
Our former Headmaster Mr Quigg took on the mammoth task of constructing the set, whilst Mrs Liddle and her team of painters completed the set design to create the realistic Liverpool backdrop and street scenes and house fronts.
Backstage was a smooth running operation with a select group of Year 14 pupils at the helm. This group was guided by the ever resourceful Miss McIntyre who graciously took over from Mrs Armstrong when she fell ill, but we know she was with us in spirit, if not in body!
Many members of the staff and wider school community really pulled together to enable this play to become the success it was and their time and effort was very much appreciated. The Coleraine Inst Friends Association must also be thanked for their support. Of particular note was their help in organising the Premiere Charity Night which was a resounding success and raised a significant amount of money for the Coleraine Hospice Group.
All three performances received an explosive reaction from the crowd. Both the stage crew and the cast performed exceptionally well and have set a strong example to follow in future years.
It took four rehearsals a week, over a period of five months to get the production up to an acceptable stand and was over in just three days…but hopefully the legacy will live on through future performances at Coleraine Academical Institution. For now, we can enjoy the memories of “Blood Brothers”.
Steven Henry (Co-Director).
Adam Goudy as Mickey
Chris McLaughlin as Young Mickey
Callum McBurney as Young Eddie
Daniel Livingstone as Eddie
Peri Stynes as The Narrator
Craig McConville as The Milkman
Mark Braithwaite as The Policeman
Ilea Hendron as Mrs Lyons
Danika Shepherd as Linda
Rosie Alcorn as Young Linda
Niaome Knight as Mrs Johnston