PERFORMING arts students from St Vincent College in Gosport were recently given a real taste of West End showbusiness magic when they took part in a workshop with the famous hit musical The Lion King.
The young people took part in dance routines and songs from the spectacular Disney musical as part of a unit they are studying about masks and puppetry. It featured as part of the college’s School of Personalised Learning, which provides education and support for young people with additional needs up to the age of 25.
Tutor Karen Philp, herself a former professional actor, said the students were put through their paces at the Danceworks studio in west London. When questioned as part of a press release she explained the task at hand: “They were put into a professional situation where they had to learn the lyrics and the routines”.
She continued to highlight the key learnings and praised the group: “They got on really well and absolutely loved it. I am a massive advocate of giving my students opportunities and the students can be very creative if they are given the chance to flourish and they really made the most of that chance with this workshop. You can see them blossom when they take part in things like this, that’s what makes my job worthwhile.”
Last year the group took part an acting workshop with performers at The London Dungeon and have just completed two performances of a comedy version of Treasure Island at the college’s own theatre. Last year they shot a 90-minute feature film, A Night Out At Vinny’s, on location around multiple Gosport sites.
Mrs Philp explained the detailed idea behind this project: “We were originally going to have filmed segments around a live performance but we had to cancel that because of the pandemic and ended up filming the whole thing. The students learned the skill of acting in front of a camera and they really enjoyed it.”
The group received valuable tips by Coronation Street actor Peter Gunn, better known as shopkeeper Brian Packham, who filmed himself on the street’s famous cobbles to talk about filming. The students have in the past also had advice from Harry Potter actor Jon Campling and comic actor Ken Collard from BBC’s Cuckoo.
St Vincent’s School of Personalised Learning is the only place in the region where students with additional needs can progress from level 1 to level 2 in performing arts. Mrs Philp believes having a platform to express themselves, as well as work with others, can provide far more than just performance skills.
The tutor said as she examined the positives of the project: “There are so many transferable skills and they get so much from studying here. It increases their self-esteem and helps them in so many other areas of their lives, like having the confidence to converse with people or go for interviews.”
Mrs Philp has also expressed her desire to see a theatre company formed to give students somewhere to continue their drama education once they leave college. “There is no provision for students in the South West after they leave here, there is nothing for them”
She added: “My students couldn’t cope with going for an audition at drama school, let alone live on their own. I would love the area to have a company for people young adults with disabilities so they can take elements of performance into schools to inspire other young people.”
Readers can find out more about the School of Personalised Learning and the support it offers those with additional needs by visiting www.stvincvent.ac.uk/spl/ for information and how to join.
PICTURED: Students participate in Lion King workshop (reproduced with permission).