Nine schools and 95 students to perform at FEST 2022
The third edition of the Festival of English-language School Theatre or FEST takes place 18-19 March, with nine schools and 95 students performing at Mierscher Kulturhaus.
The festival sees secondary school theatre groups perform one-act pieces in English lasting between 30-45 minutes. We caught up with one young director and two young actors to discover what made them take to the stage, and for a brief preview of the pieces from their groups.
Fairy tale fun
Gina Millington, a former pupil and theatre student at the European School in Mamer, is directing the school’s light-hearted performance of 'The good, the bad, and the ugly sister' by Siân Lewis. It follows a retired evil witch who discovers that her magic mirror has been lying to her for years, and that she is not the fairest of them all. She sets out to get her revenge on anyone who is fairer – which is pretty much everyone.
Millington, studying at university, acknowledges that the pandemic gave her the flexibility to study and to teach and direct students, many of whom are not native English speakers.
"There’s only one child in the play who is a mother-tongue English speaker," Millington said. "Some were less comfortable in the language, perhaps stumbling or mispronouncing words, but it’s a great way to grow your confidence with English,” she said of the group of 10 performers, who aged 11-13 years, are the youngest group at FEST.
“A play set in a fairy tale universe is fun for kids to perform, with the classic evil witch and plenty of slapstick,” she added. Millington believes that theatre helps with confidence, public speaking and thinking on your feet, and reiterates that you don’t need to be an outgoing person to join a theatre group.
Seventeen-year-old Anna Moura has a central role as one of the college interviewers who needs to find one more student to make up the quota for the year’s admissions in '11 ways to screw up your college interview' by Ian McWethy.
It’s the second time that Lycée Classique de Diekirch student Moura has performed at FEST. "I had already chosen English-language drama as an option at a previous school, so when I changed schools I joined the theatre group," she said. "I play one of the two interviewers who are in the background, but constantly introducing new characters, and analysing them," she explains, adding: "Every character is different and special, so it is a comedy and very humorous."
The group did get to rehearse in person, but with masks, which "makes it harder to express with your voice, so you have to prepare differently and use your body more for expression. You have to pay attention to how you move, or if you move at all, to convey the setting," Moura said.
She enjoys acting because "you meet people with different mind sets who are very open, so you can have interesting discussions".
The dark side
Whilst many of the pieces are humorous, The European School in Kirchberg is staging a more sinister performance of Dark Road by Laura Lundgren Smith. It’s set in 1946, on the eve of an execution for war crimes at Ravensbrück concentration camp, where Greta is persuaded to retrace the steps which led her to give her life to the Nazi cause.
The lead, Greta, is played by 15-year-old Caeli Colgan, who says her character is remorseless and has no redeeming qualities. “It was a challenge to show development of my character because she gets more and more despicable. I had to show how she interacted with others, and transformed.”
“I’ve done theatre for a couple of years, and it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, to get into character and see how the audience reacts. But we’re all experimenting together,” Colgan said.
An interactive English lesson
Whilst English is the fourth language for many Luxembourg students, some secondary schools have increased lessons with English-theatre options or as an extra-curricular activity to help pupils to improve their language abilities in a practical way. A number of state schools, in addition to private schools, now offer education in English too.
“It’s a great opportunity not only for native and non-native students to perform and share best-practice, but for their peers and the public to see a great variety of plays and pieces,” said Tony Kingston, one of the directors, a long-time teacher of theatre in Luxembourg, and an organiser of the event.
“The standard of English in Luxembourg is amazing – something you don’t get in other countries, and it’s a huge resource. There is an incredible pool of acting talent and a higher percentage of children getting involved in the theatre than you would see even in a big city in the UK.”
The schools taking part include: on Friday 18 March, Lycée Michel Rodange and the International School Luxembourg (ISL), and on Saturday 19 March, The European School Mamer, Lënster Lycée International School, Lycée Edward Steichen, Lycée des Arts et Métiers, the European School Kirchberg, St George’s International School, and the Lycée Classique de Diekirch.
You can find out more about all nine performances and book tickets here.