TWO Darlington schoolgirls have landed their big break on stage, having been chosen to star in a major theatre production alongside Olivier Award-winning actor and TV personality Matthew Kelly.
Caitlin Walker and Jemma Vincent, both from Polam Hall School in Darlington, have been given parts in the Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s production of To Sir, With Love, at Darlington Civic Theatre starting November 12.
The girls, who are both A-level drama and theatre studies students at Polam Hall, will star alongside Matthew Kelly and RSC actor Ansu Kabia, in a play adapted by Ayub Khan Din, who wrote the screenplay for British comedy East is East.
Both the budding young actors have overcome shyness during their drama training at Polam Hall, enabling them to pursue their acting aspirations.
Their teacher, Jo Graham – head of drama at the school – said: “The girls are very excited about their success and looking forward to meeting Matthew Kelly. I am exceptionally proud of their achievements and they are a testament to the quality and high level of drama we produce here and are great role models for the younger pupils.”
To Sir, With Love is based on E R Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel and tells the story of Ricky Braithwaite, an ex-RAF fighter pilot and Cambridge graduate who arrives in London in 1948.
Despite his first class degree in electronic engineering, he is turned down for job after job in his chosen profession and discovers the reality of life as a black man in post-war England.
Jemma Vincent, 17, said she was thrilled to playing a part in the production, and attributed her development as an actor to her experiences at Polam Hall. “Drama at Polam Hall has helped me so much,” she said. “Regrettably I didn’t take drama for GCSE but when I decided to take it for A-levels it helped me so much with my confidence. “I have been at Polam Hall since year seven and every year we do house-plays. At first I was too shy to audition for them and when I did I got stage fright, but I eventually fought off my fear. Since taking drama at A-level I have become a more confident person and I am now able to feel comfortable in different characters and also working with new people.”
Caitlin Walker, 18, said: “Before I started doing drama at GCSE I was shy and very timid but now I feel completely at home acting and being on the stage. My teacher Jo Graham taught me different styles of acting and to always to push myself to the best of my ability.”
The pupils, who both play schoolgirls in the play, auditioned for To Sir With Love through the Civic’s own ArtsSpark Youth Theatre they attend. Polam Hall’s own drama productions involve pupils from across the school and aim to provide an opportunity for pupils to build relationships and develop teamwork under what can be quite stressful conditions.
Although currently an independent day school, Polam Hall is applying to become a state-funded independent school from 2015 to enable it to share its outstanding offering to all. It has been based at its site in Darlington since 1854 and prides itself on maintaining its traditional values and rich heritage while being able to offer pupils the strongest possible skills for the future.
For more information on the school visit: www.polamhall.com.
Tickets for To Sir, With Love, on 12 -16 November, are still available and are priced at £17.50 – £26. Book online at www.darlington.gov.uk or call 01325 486555.