Theatre group in last-minute appeal

IN the true tradition of theatre the show must go on – but unless someone comes to the rescue and quick, one particular show will have to go on without its youngest stars.

By Jo Macdonald

IN the true tradition of theatre the show must go on – but unless someone comes to the rescue and quick, one particular show will have to go on without its youngest stars.

The curtain is due to rise on The Appeal Group's production of Oklahoma at the New Wolsey in just over a week but although they have been rehearsing since January the five children in the show may not be allowed to perform.

By law, the youngsters must be escorted throughout the show by someone with a chaperone licence but the group's application for one is stuck in a backlog of forms.

If no one with a licence can be found to come to their rescue, the children will therefore be forced to drop out of the show.

Production manager Jo Whelton said: "The children have been working on this since January and they have worked ever so hard.

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"It would be terrible if it was taken away from them at the last minute."

Chloe, ten, and Ryan Conway, 11, Siobhan Bedford, 13, Michael Ryles, 13, and Danielle Adams, 11, are due to take to the stage on June 24.

They have been eagerly looking forward to opening night but will face disappointment if no one is able to save the day.

"We'll be really disappointed because we've done lots of rehearsals," Michael said. "It's cool being in the show because I used to like being a cowboy when I was little.

"We're still taking part and hopefully we'll find someone but if we don't it'll be hard having to watch the show we should have been in."

With only days left in which to secure the youngsters their performance licenses he is aware of how little time there is to find someone and added: "It's not like it's a month before, it's only a couple of weeks and we might not be able to do it.

"I've got all my fingers and toes and everything crossed."

By law, all children in theatrical productions must be chaperoned by a parent or someone licensed. They must be supervised in the dressing rooms, walked to the stage, watched while they're performing and taken backstage again.

Someone with a licence is able to look after several children, while parents are only allowed to look after their own sons and daughters.

There remains the option of having a parent of each of the youngsters to supervise but this would not only make it more crowded backstage but still leave Chloe and Ryan out of the show.

Their father is abroad and as their mother is also in the show she is unable to chaperone them.

The Appeal Group therefore hoped to secure a licence for one person to do the job but a change in legislation has left a backlog of applications, including theirs, at the National Criminal Records Bureau.

Jo said: "We did our bit and submitted the applications in time and Suffolk County Council did their bit.

"There's just nothing that anyone could have done without a crystal ball."

Everyone involved in Oklahoma is desperate to find supervision for each of the performances during the show's six day run, whether it is one person for the whole run or different people for each show.

Jo said; "We have eight shifts to fill. The maximum amount of time it would take is three to three-and-a-half hours each time.

"The show is raising money for the Suffolk Kidney Association at Ipswich Hospital, so it's for a good cause."

Anyone who holds a valid chaperone licence and is able to help should contact Jo Whelton as soon as possible on 01473 721551.

n Oklahoma is at the New Wolsey Theatre from June 24 to 29 with performances at 7.45pm each day and also at 2.30pm on Saturday. Tickets cost £9 for shows Monday to Friday, £5.50 for the matinee and £10 for Saturday night. They are available at the theatre box office, in Civic Drive, Ipswich or by calling 01473 295900.