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Litter-ally, Purrrfect! Crawley school brings musical CATS to life

Stop whatever you are doing and book a ticket for you and the family to go and see this amazing show.

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I was nervous, very nervous. It is over 20 years since I squeezed into the tights, pulled the wig on and plastered my face in makeup eight times a week to play one of two parts in CATS.

So the moment it was announced that St Wilfrid’s was taking on this, (the best musical ever written in my opinion) hairs at the back of my neck stood up as all the memories flooded back and suddenly there was that sickening mix of excitement and nerves for them.

CATS is not an easy musical to put on by any means. It is a non-stop mix of dance and song and most of the time the two are combined together. A job difficult enough for a professional never mind students.

Made up and based on poems by T.S.Eliot it tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and one night in particular, but I wont give anything away.

It is also a musical whose cast is litter-ally (oops used that one in the title already) huge.

So here you have a legendary production, a large cast, dancing, singing and non-stop drama to keep even the most demanding critics happy and yet you have students from all years, most of whose only experience of acting and dance comes from their drama classes. How on earth do you recreate something so epic?

Well ask St Wilfrid’s. Not only have they managed to pull it off, they have taken it a step further than even I could have ever expected.

It’s all too easy to come away from a school production and rave about how good it was with most people responding with ‘oh well done for them’ but a knowing wink that you didn’t really mean it.

So let me put that straight right now.

This is such a good production that if you are to see ANY theatre production this year, professional or amateur then it MUST be this one!

Let’s start with the set. Worthy of the West End or Broadway and cleverly filled with parts from past productions the school has put on over the years. I spent ten minutes before it all started trying to count how many I could find.

Then there is the lighting, something people just take for granted. But look at these photos and tell me these were taken in a school hall!

Yet again an orchestra not a sound recording booms out across the audience and I defy anyone to tell the difference.

The orchestra who power through a complex score

And the moment the lights dim and the first performers take to the stage the energy in the room is electrified.

Every single performer on that stage became a CAT. Some kittens, some adolescents but at no time, not for a single second, did any one break from character. We were watching art that never deviated from its path and that is something truly remarkable.

Within moments of them appearing on stage we were instantly drawn in to the Jellicle world and what a world they brought us.

As with every year St Wilfrid’s invited local primary schools to watch their dress rehearsal and most years fifty or sixty children will come along with their teachers.

Not this year. The auditorium was packed! What’s more there was no whispering, no children playing around, they were all hooked.

St Wilfrid’s has put together two casts in order to allow as many of their students to take part as possible so it would be unfair to point out particular actors or performances BUT having said that do watch out for Munkustrap whose stage presence is powerful and my favourite character (mainly because I played it) Skimbleshanks whose elegance is exactly how the character should be.

Talking of elegance some of the dancing is of such high standards you forget these aren’t professionals. But you know what, at times and in mine and everyone else minds they were just as good as any pro I have met.

Possibly the most famous song of the musical is Memory and the pressure to perform that song must be intense. Well any worries they had were un-necessary.

But let’s not forget those who are unseen without whom none of this would even be possible.

The make-up for example. Perfection!

The fantastic make up artists

The backstage crew, as professional as it comes.

Possibly the best back stage crew in the county

And of course the incredible director James Hadden who has done something so fantastic that I will be raving about this for months.

What this show does is show what true talents this town of ours has. Everyone involved will take a step back after it is all over with on Saturday night and slowly, ever so slowly it will start to sink in just what an incredible production they have been part of. Something they will remember for a lifetime.

But for now they should enjoy every second of it, because this IS the best musical of all time and one you MUST NOT miss.

Tickets are available on the door but to ensure you dont’ miss out you can ring 01293 421 421 and book them. Priced at £8 for adults and £6 for concessions it is money well spent and a perfect night out for all the family. Performance start at 7pm from Wed 27th to Sat 2nd March with a Matinee performance at 2.30 on the Saturday.

Education

Chelsea FC Foundation brings initiative to Crawley school

The Chelsea Champions Programme is a Premier League funded project that enables Chelsea FC Foundation to place full-time staff within secondary schools and Thomas Bennett Community College was chosen for their programme.

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The aim of their programme is to increase physical activity, support leadership qualities and improve social, emotional wellbeing and increase resilience of pupils through a number of universal, targeted and individual initiatives.

Cutting through the jargon it is an exercise on both educating and motivating young people, in particular those who may be finding it harder than others with everyday situations

A spokesperson for Cheslea FC Foundation said:

“Here at Thomas Bennett Community College (TBCC) our Chelsea Champion is; Lauren Owens, who is supported by a Chelsea mentor; Yannick Jean. The Chelsea Fc Foundation Sussex department have taken over the old youth wing attached to TBCC, rebranded and relaunched it as the Community Hub. Open every day after school from 3-5pm, Monday-Thursday to TBCC students and Primary School students on a Friday. During half term, we open the Hub for Holiday Activities.

As part of support offered at TBCC, Chelsea FC Foundation have developed the Skills School project. An alternative learning provision that is to encourage positive behaviour in a group of ‘high profile’ students that struggle within main stream lessons. They take part in a variety of different activities and topics from English to Health and Wellbeing, Maths to Personal Skills. The aim is not only to help improve their behaviour in and around school but improve their self-esteem and resilience.”

Last Friday (15th March), the u18s Chelsea Academy Scholars delivered a session based around raising aspirations.

The foundation said the session was something planned out by the U18s Chelsea Academy Scholars based on information that they were given about the group of students.

The activities included looking at questions to encourage conversations around the following; ‘what being a role model was?’, ‘what qualities does a good role model have?’ and ‘what does aspirations mean?’ The main message they  put across to the students involved in the activity was that hard work pays off.”

For more information on how Chelsea FC Foundation can support your school, club or community please contact them on sussexdevelopment@chelseafc.com.

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