The RNCM Children's Opera Project is in its eighth year, and combines the talents of local primary school children with composer Kate Pearson and a group of RNCM students. Amazingly, the children themselves write the script and choreograph the action, as well as compose the songs alongside Pearson. The production this year is loosely based on Watership Down, and tells the story of a group of children escaping their home, and the adventure that follows.
The first section is brought to us by Ribble Drive Primary School, and introduces us to 'pod city', where the children live happily and freely. This group utilised the stage space really well, and created a wonderful atmosphere with the children laughing and playing on the stage. Their song 'No Place Like Home' was so catchy, and my favourite musical number of the whole piece. However the happy times are not to last - a child named Meeli has a dream that something bad will happen to their home, and tries to convince the others to escape. After confronting the Prime Minster the children are thrown out, and escape the city.
The young girl playing Meeli was excellent, however her solo singing lines were being lost under the volume of the orchestra. Maybe stage microphones would have helped in this instance. I also think there was no need for the adult singers in this, and only this section - the children were more than capable of playing all the parts themselves.
The next section is performed by the children of St Augustine's Primary School, on their journey through the forbidden battlefield. There was a lovely humour in this section, with the tales of ghosts, vampires and wizards hiding in the rubble. The performers also had wonderful projection and volume, and I didn't lose any lines. However, after the arrival of an escaped prisoner to communicate the fate of their old home, a very and remorseful ballad was sung. While the kids were fantastic at being loud, this song really needed to have more dynamics and be performed more tenderly to really tug on the heartstrings of the audience.
The third section was probably my favourite, featuring the children from Alma Park Primary School. They had given themselves an even harder job by incorporating sign language into their choreography, which worked beautifully. In this section the children arrive at a hotel that seems too good to be true, until they are given a huge bill, and have to escape. The young girl playing the hotel receptionist was phenomenal - she had wonderful stage presence and vocal control for one so young.
Finally we come to St Bernard’s R.C. Primary School, and the camp of evil leader Yeroc. The choreography in this section was probably a little too ambitious, as quite a few of the children were unsure of the movements, but the climactic and rousing breakout song was performed with such passion and fire. This school had also really thought about the use of the stage and particularly the lighting available.
Overall I was really blown away with the level of talent and professionalism shown. To organise the coming together of these diverse groups cannot be easy, but each section was clearly so well-rehearsed and performed with confidence. Pearson has done a fantastic job with the schools, and created a really wonderful piece to showcase the skills of RNCM students and school pupil’s alike, many of whom I'm sure will be returning to the stage in the near future!
Reviewed: 10th February 2016
Reviewer: Poppy Stewart