15 drama students to perform on world stage

Photo: Making the trip to England are Big Little Theatre Company members, back row, Mitch Farr, Simon Harford, Kate McIlroy, Magdalene Haugh, Tori Kelland, Penny Nell, front, Makayla Hulme, Lucy Barns, Caleb McNulty, Elise Heffernan and Esme Heffernan. Absent: James Brady, Bella Casey-Solly, William Wallis, Ben Harris.

By Mick Jensen

Local drama students head off next month on a trip of a lifetime and an experience that will see them study and perform with theatre professionals in England.

Some 15 students from Big Little Theatre Company (BLTC), aged from 12 to 18 years, will make the trip alongside company founder Jackie Heffernan and other supporters.

The itinerary includes training and performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Globe Theatre, London, a focus on verbatim theatre at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and devised theatre at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.

In between there will be a meeting with the Lord Mayor of Coventry, a visit and busking licence to perform in Brighton, and trips to Stratford Upon Avon, Oxford and Cambridge.

The three-week trip is part of celebrations marking 10 years of BLTC in Ashburton.

Jackie Heffernan said the company had produced 12 shows over those years and hundreds of the district’s young people and their families had been involved.

Shows had included Shakespeare pieces like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, full scale musicals, contemporary dramas, farce and ground breaking, professionally directed works.

Two of the 15 students travelling to England, Mitchell Farr and Elise Heffernan, had been with the company from the beginning, and three others from the very early days, she said.

The upcoming trip was very exciting for everyone involved, especially the young actors.

“The concept of ‘singing for your supper’ is not lost on me or the students.

“The fact that they have earned this opportunity to travel and richly deserve it does not mean they can have it by right – they get that.

“I think it has helped them appreciate that you can have whatever you want in this life if you want it enough, believe in your capacity to achieve it, inspire others as you go, be humble and work very hard.”

The cost of the trip is estimated at $60,000 and because it is overseas, external funding cannot easily be tapped into.

A generous donation from the Masons of $9000 has helped, but the young actors and their supporters have worked very hard for a number of months to raise funds.

As well as making and selling 8000 cheeses rolls, there has been car washing, potatoes dug, shows performed, food served and sold, and many hours of other initiatives carried out.

The theatre group will be ambassadors for Ashburton and New Zealand on the trip and will go armed with a letter of introduction from Ashburton District Council.

They will practise a waiata over the next few weeks and will proudly perform it overseas.

Jackie Heffernan says the trip will be an eye opener to the world of theatre and performance, to history and to drama and to the similarities and differences shared with their peers across the world.

The contingent from BLTC leave on June 28.

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