Confidence soars in annual stage productions

Playing their parts: Christopher Cown, Hannah McGuicken and Rebekah Pearce. INNT27-504CON
Playing their parts: Christopher Cown, Hannah McGuicken and Rebekah Pearce. INNT27-504CON

Young performers from across Newtownabbey took part in the annual productions of the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy last month at the Courtyard Theatre, Ballyearl.

The shows gave students the opportunity to show off their development in terms of self-confidence and communication skills.

The Academy, Northern Ireland’s largest community-based drama school, operates a studio at the Ballyearl Arts Centre on Thursdays.

The Lower Primary, ages 5-8, performed a delightful play called ‘Pirate Joe’ with stunning pirate costumes and a wonderful display of acting skills beyond their years, while the play for the Upper Primary students, ages 9-11, was ‘Circus Capers’, during which there were tears of laughter in abundance as the ringmaster struggled to keep the failing circus on the road.

Each year as part of the youth theatre’s comprehensive theatre-arts course, secondary school students perform a challenging dramatic piece, using a particular style of acting. This year’s production focused on the melodrama genre, which was particularly evident during the Victorian era. As audience participation was actively encouraged, the crowd had a wonderful time booing the villain and cheering the hero.

Principal of the Academy, Lisa Semple, commented: “It was wonderful to see the breadth of talent across the different age groups. All our students have shown development in their confidence in verbal communication and their self-esteem which is what our unique programme offers. We are developing valuable life-skills.

“Most importantly though, was to see the children having fun and enjoying the experience of being on a stage in front of a large audience. Many parents have commented on how their children are now more able to speak out in public and the improvement in the quality of speech which has had a direct effect on their school work.”

She added: “The Academy has been delighted with the support they have received from head teachers throughout the province who see the programme as an invaluable addition to the work they are endeavouring to achieve in this field.

“We are a truly community-based drama school, with approximately 1,000 students attending throughout the province. We work on the principle that we go to the people rather than they come to us.”

The Helen O’Grady Drama Academy is currently enrolling for ages 4 - 18 for classes starting at Ballyearl in September.

For more information telephone 9146 4337 or email

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