Kosovo kid is Stoke High star
LESS than two years ago, he couldn't speak one word of English.But now Erion Xhaferaj isn't only speaking – he's singing, and starring on stage in Stoke High School's rock'n'roll drama production!"I am so happy to be here," said Erion, 16, who arrived in England in May 2000 after leaving Kosovo with his parents as a refugee due to the war.
By Judy Rimmer
LESS than two years ago, he couldn't speak one word of English.
But now Erion Xhaferaj isn't only speaking – he's singing, and starring on stage in Stoke High School's rock'n'roll drama production!
"I am so happy to be here," said Erion, 16, who arrived in England in May 2000 after leaving Kosovo with his parents as a refugee due to the war.
"It has been very hard but I am happy now. I have had so much help from all the teachers and I have made good friends here."
Erion is set to star as Chuck, a character he describes as "a bit of a hoodlum" in Stoke High School's production of the musical Shake, Ripple and Roll, which is set in a 1950s American diner called Angelo's.
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The cast of 50 pupils have been rehearsing ever since September for the fast-moving production, adapted by head of English Tim Howard. As well as Erion, the stars include Siobhan Bedford and Temisha Williams, who plays bad girl Deanna La Domme.
The music has been mixed by Trevor Jones, a member of 80s band Aswad, who is the dad of one of the cast members, Ashton.
Erion comes from a musical family and has always been a keen singer. He was encouraged by his uncle, who was a violinist in Kosovo, and used to practice with him for three hours a day.
He has written down a short account of his life, in which he paid tribute to his uncle and said: "It is really sad because I miss him so much and I don't know where he is now."
The teenager made some recordings in Kosovo, becoming well-known as a singer, and took part in a big concert alongside pop and folk singers. He also appeared in an award-winning film about a young boy training as a singer – but then the war changed everything.
He said: "Shortly after we finished the film the war started and everybody disappeared and I moved to England with my family. I lived in a hotel for about three months."
Erion is studying hard for eight GCSEs and wants to go on to study drama A-level. It is his dream to become a professional actor, and he said: "I would love to be on TV!"
Directors Sally Robinson and Heidi Patrick paid tribute to everybody involved in the show, which will be staged at Stoke's drama studio next week and looks set to be a sell-out.
"Everyone involved has worked so hard to overcome many stressful situations, and we know their efforts will be rewarded on the night," said Mrs Robinson.
The week includes a gala evening with invited guests such as the Mayor of Ipswich, Maureen Carrington-Brown and David Peachey, Suffolk's director of education.
Head of art Roger Capell-Clarke has designed and painted a stunning set including the faces of 50s icons Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Former Aswad and Jah Warriors musician Trevor Jones, now of CSV Media in Grimwade Street, Ipswich, has worked on the music together with Joe Sharman. "It's going to be a good show," said Mr Jones.
Although most of the performances have sold out, there are still some tickets available for Monday and Wednesday's performances. For information please contact the school office on 01473 601252.