AISHK 25th Anniversary Throwback: Our First Early Childhood Pantomime

Across three shows in October 2009, AISHK presented its first Early Childhood Pantomime, ‘Everything but the Beanstalk’. The production involved over 260 children (from Reception, Prep, Year 1 and Year 2) as a way for students to have at least one fun experience in Early Childhood, showcasing their talent in a polished performance.

Pantomimes have always been a great example of the school community spirit and for this production, parents made, sourced and purchased all of the costumes, teachers worked on the choreography, backdrop design, art work and sets, and the Performing Arts Department helped with the technical stage work from lighting to sound. Pantomimes since then included, ‘A Fella for Cinderella’ (2011), ‘The Lizard of Oz’ (2013), ‘Aunty Twizzle’s Twirly-Whirly Time Machine’ (2015), ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ (2017), and most recently, ‘Stella the Starfish’ (2019).

The director of the production, Lisa Price (Teacher, 2004-2007, Head of Early Childhood, 2008-2013) brought her experience of organising Early Childhood events, which often incorporated singing, music and dance, to AISHK. It was the “amazing facilities for performing arts” and the “enthusiastic community feel of the school” that meant Lisa just knew Early Childhood was destined to run a pantomime. Lisa shares with us the inspiration behind the story of ‘Everything but the Beanstalk’ and reminisces what it was like to direct the show that took place 11 years ago.

“The inspiration for the ‘Everything but the Beanstalk’ story started with the violin music in ‘El Tango de Roxanne’ from the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’. Every time I listened to that soundtrack, I thought that song would make great music for a villain. All children know the story ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ – the wolf was the perfect villain, and so it began. I brought in familiar fairy tale characters, booing and hissing at the wolf from the audience, and added a twist… the wolf was not a villain after all! Little Red Riding Hood was on her way to Grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday. Red was carrying a birthday cake, candles and a knife in her basket but became lost in the forest. Unbeknownst to Red, the knife fell out of her basket and the wolf picked it up and followed her. Red met many characters who helped her on her way. Eventually Red and Grandma were confronted by the wolf, to the horror of the audience. But as it turned out, the wolf was just trying to return the knife. Every time the wolf entered the stage that music played –  it was his theme song and the audience loved it.”

“I learnt so much that year from Tremayne Brown and Kate Tuxford who were experienced Drama and Music teachers.  Their support and ongoing sharing of expertise gave me the confidence to do it again and Leonie Drew suggested that the pantomime be a biennial event.  It became something special for the Early Childhood kids to look forward to and an opportunity to shine.  Each time we stayed with the formula of Reception opening the show, Prep, Year 1 and Year 2 class dances and Year 2 students assuming the acting roles.  In 2011, it was ‘A Fella for Cinderella’.  There were more fairy tale characters and twists with an evil stepmother and a not very likable princess who married a frog.  In 2013, it was ‘The Lizard of Aus, a tribute to Aussie music and film which particularly appealed to our parent audience, with music from their youth and Dame Edna narrating the story and leading us in song.  I think we got bigger and better every pantomime, incorporating film and more elaborate sets thanks to Narelle Cridland and Anne Hopkins, as well as parents organising and creating the most spectacular costumes. I loved all three of those pantomimes and I have never felt so proud of all the kids, staff and families as I did after all our hard work on the opening nights. Team work at its best!”

Performing arts has always been a significant part of the school and it especially plays an important role in helping children to develop their creative skills. Leonie Drew (Primary Principal, Co-Head of School, 2004-2015) reflects on the value of performing arts at the school and shares some of her highlights during her time.

“While performing arts allow children to develop creative passions, they simultaneously teach children language and communication skills, helping them to communicate effectively with others with confidence. We always placed a great deal of importance on stage presence, public speaking, creativity and of course the arts. AISHK has always aimed to provide students with the opportunity to engage the mind, the body and emotions into a collaborative expression of all that it means to be human – so that students discover their own voice, grow in confidence and develop empathy.

“Under the direction of Graeme Tyler who was for many years the very talented Head of Performing Arts, our music and drama programme flourished into a rich and wonderful ‘soul of the school’. There were so many outstanding productions held annually at the school and across the year groups and of course too many to list, but some I clearly remember were: the performing arts festivals, the Idol competitions, drama nights, productions like ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’, as well as ‘13 the Musical’ and ‘Oh Fortuna’, the annual Primary Music Recitals, the rock band, various choirs, vocal ensembles and of course the magnificent school orchestras.

“It is now five years since I left AISHK and I think of the school so often.  After almost 12 years of my life spent at the school I have so many wonderful memories. I am proud of what we achieved to make the school a happy, stimulating and world class learning environment. I wish the school continued success as it celebrates and reflects on the wonderful memories of 25 years.”