Faust International Youth Theatre’s young stars are performing in the Jungle Book next month. Carolynne Dear meets the stars.
Described as a “fast paced, rhythmic adaptation” of Rudyard Kipling’s classic stories, the play has been in production since September, with the young cast enthusiastically squeezing in rehearsals between their packed school schedules.
“We make the jungle come alive on stage,” enthuses ESF Island School student Olivia Appel, who will be playing Akela, wise wolf and jungle leader. “I think people will love the diversity of the performance – there’s humour, action, sad bits. The stage fighting should be a particularly big hit.”
With all actors full-time students, balancing school work with the demands of production schedules has been tough at times. “I think some of the older kids have had to try really hard to keep up with everything the closer we get to the show,” admits 15-year old Canadian International School student Lizzy Marland, who will be playing Raksha, the mother wolf. “You just have to make sure you manage your time well.
“I think the first rehearsal was one of my favourites, simply because it was really cool getting to meet all of the cast and seeing the people you’re going to work with,” she says. “Generally, we have full cast rehearsals on Friday evenings and another four hours on Saturdays. There are also smaller group rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.”
All main characters are performing in all the shows, although the part of Mowgli is shared between twins Alex and John Hardy, who both attend Kellett School. Faust production veterans, they have previously performed in Fantastic Mr Fox and Treasure Island.
“We all get nervous before the performance,” says Alex. “Before each show, I take a few deep breaths and think to myself, “I can do this”.”
“So far rehearsals have gone smoothly,” admits John. “Although yesterday I fell down the stairs on the way back to the changing rooms. My favourite part is the relief and joy you feel when you bow during the curtain call! I think there’s something for everyone in the show – the energy of the cast is magical.”
According to Appel, her part involves “speaking and movement, but no full dance number. I started with Faust two years ago and have since fallen in love with acting – my grandma says I’ve got the bug,” she says.
“I love becoming different people with the roles I’ve taken on. As I work with the directors and cast, my character becomes more real and the lines start to stick in my mind. Then after a while, they just start to flow. In this production, I’m wearing a nice grey fur vest, but it’s the face make-up that really makes the difference. I like how my face is changed, it makes me feel more intense.”
Bagheera the panther will be played by ESF South Island School student, Poppy Conway. “I love everything about performing, it’s such an adrenaline rush when you step on stage,” she says. “I also love my costume so much! It’s a long, burgundy, fluffy coat with red piping around the neck and sleeves. It helps me get into the role and I feel like a different person when I’ve got it on.
Conway is currently studying for her GCSEs, as well as attending three dance classes each week on top of rehearsals. “I’m very busy,” she admits. “I’m not the best at learning lines, and need to go over them a lot. But I’m proud to say I’ve memorised them all now though!
“I think the audience is going to love our unique take on the original story. It has some very funny moments which feature some amazing puns and also has some sad and touching moments. We’re hoping to blow your socks off with our performance.”
The Jungle Book will be performed on December 1 & 2, 10am & 7.30pm; and December 3, 2.30 & 7.30pm, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai. Tickets available from hkticketing.com/events/WCTHEJU1216 – quote JB2016 for a 10% discount.