I APPROACHED my children’s first stage performance at Wylye Valley School with a sense of parental obligation and divinely low expectations.
There was the usual random request for costumes and some vague understanding that the performance was collaborative with Salisbury Playhouse; but as usual the school life and my i-calendar was juggled between home and work.
Barbara Saunt from The Wylye Valley 1914 Project had approached headteacher Debi Downing three years ago asking her to consider the school’s involvement in the centenary commemorations of the start of the First World War.
A vast number of troops descended suddenly on the Wylye Valley villages as a result of Kitchener’s appeals for recruits to be trained before being posted.
The Wylye Valley 1914 Project group is preparing to commemorate the anniversary and the sudden dramatic social and practical effects this had on the local Wiltshire population.
Mrs Saunt had secured heritage funding of £1,000, and Mark Powell, head of participation at Salisbury Playhouse, offered support and appointed freelance actor and director Sam Holland to work with the school.
A dual cast was created so every pupil could be involved, and Sam expertly juggled the mirrored rehearsals.
Together, everyone worked to evolve the play Paper Bird.
At home, my children sang war time songs at teatime, but really I had little idea about what was being created behind closed doors.
So when I took my seat at the Woolstore Theatre in Codford, I didn’t know what to expect.
The stage was simply decorated, with a few chairs, a dressing up basket, a washing line with two strands meeting at the centre and a large paper bird hung from the ceiling above.
Adorning the sidewalls of the stage were the handwritten words in large text to Waltzing Matilda and a Codford song called The Vly.
For the next 30 minutes we were enchanted.
The dialogue was limited but effective, the scenes seamlessly integrated with time relevant music and changing scene sheets on a line.
The montage was amazing and the effect was delightful.
The echoes of the time reverberated around the theatre in snapshot moments as a child sped past through the auditorium laughing, giggling and muttering snatched words such as ‘I’ll get you sausage’.
Haunting moments that will dance in my memories eternally.
The children of Wylye Valley School blew me away.