16 Nov 2012

Pupils from Newcastle Church High School bravely shared the stage with a giant, man-eating plant as they opened up performances of the dark comedy musical, Little Shop of Horrors, this week at the Little Theatre in Gateshead.

The girls, aged between 13 and 18, received a standing ovation after delivering flawless performances of the comic horror show. The show, which features at least three different sized versions of the film’s infamous, blood-thirsty plant, was played by a split cast over three performances due to the girls’ outstanding auditions, meaning each show was truly unique.

17-year-old Pheobe Elliott, from Gosforth, played lead character Audrey for two performances. Pheobe said: “I was so excited when I was told I’d got the role of Audrey, I loved the musical when I was young, and Audrey was always my favourite character. I’ll be leaving Church High next year so this has been my last production, but it’s fitting that I get to go out on one of my favourite shows.

“I’ve been involved in drama throughout my time at Church High; it’s such a big part of my life. I really want to go on to study drama and would love to be a professional actress when I’m older. I’ve applied to go to theatre school next year and would love to go to RADA, LAMDA or the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.”

Pheobe played ditzy blonde Audrey alongside lead male character and love interest Seymour, played by 17-year-old Amy McKenzie from Gosforth. Amy said: “I’ve had such a great time playing Seymour, it’s been really good fun. I watched the film just before I decided to audition and secretly hoped I’d be cast in the role – he is a hilarious character and I love being able to put my own spin on him.

“This is my last year at Church High so it’s been really hectic rehearsing for the production and preparing to apply for university at the same time – I’ve had to be so organised and start my personal statement over summer, especially since I want to study medicine so I’ve submitted an early application.

“I’ve been at Church High since Kindergarten so I’ll be sad to leave, but I feel really prepared for university and the rest of my life. I think being involved in drama really boosts your confidence which has helped when applying to study medicine. If I can stand on stage in front of hundreds of people dressed as a nerdy man I can do almost anything!”

The character of Seymour was also played by Laura Fulgenzi, 15, from Gosforth. She said: “I have absolutely loved playing Seymour! It’s been two years now since I played a female part in a Church High production – I really enjoy playing a male part, it’s so different.

“It’s brilliant playing in a split cast – Amy and I run lines together, watch each other perform and bounce ideas off each other. If there’s a line I’m not quite sure about there is someone there to help me out.

“Working with other year groups has really helped to build relationships in school. We’ve made some brilliant friends and people we can ask for advice who have been there before – with GCSEs coming up, they’ve helped to reassure us.”

The character of Audrey was also played by 15-year-old Braxton Osei-Bonsu, from Heaton. Braxton said: “I was really pleased when I found out I was cast as the part of Audrey – although she is so different from me, she’s quite shy and a bit ditzy! It’s definitely been a challenge but I really enjoyed seeing it all come to life on stage in front of a live audience.”

Hattie Hawks, 17, from Gosforth, played grumpy shop owner, Mr Mushnik, after being asked to audition for the role. She said: “I was really pleased to be asked to play Mr Mushnik – he’s a difficult character to play but I couldn’t imagine myself playing anyone else now, he’s really good fun!

“This has been my first production at Church High but I wish I’d done more – I’ll definitely be joining amateur dramatics groups at university next year.”

The production included a lot of dance numbers, something which Head of Dance, Michelle Cowen, was keen to incorporate. She said: “We tried to include a lot of dancing this year as a lot of the girls enjoy both dancing and acting outside of school. I’m really proud of how the girls pulled off the dance numbers, it wasn’t easy choreographing them around the giant plant – for some of the pieces the girls had to dance in the aisles!”

Ruchelle Everton, Head of Drama, directed the performance. She said: “We’d wanted to put on a performance of Little Shop of Horrors for years but we weren’t sure how we would go about getting a giant, talking plant! The girls have been really enthusiastic and they’ve worked so hard, I’m really proud of them.

“This year we’ve had help from art students at school who have made some weird and wonderful props for us including miniature plants and gas masks from bottles and washing machine tubes, and we’ve also had some brilliant volunteers from Newcastle School for Boys helping us operate the puppets! The audience really enjoyed each performance, and we can’t wait to start preparing for the next one.”