PERFORMERS take their skills to the streets of Yamba.
PERFORMERS take their skills to the streets of Yamba.

Students embrace challengen

By TOBY WALKER

IT COULD have all gone so wrong.

Last week around 60 Maclean High School students received a crash course in puppet-making and stilt-walking in time for the street parade billed as the big event for the Surfing the Coldstream festival.

Sydney-based theatre group Erth were given the task of transforming the students into performers and bringing them into their unique vision for the parade.

Formed 16 years ago, Erth has an enviable reputation as one of Australia's most respected theatre groups, having received commissions to create and give performances in 12 countries. This time its stage would be Coldstream Street and the cast would be the Maclean High School students who volunteered to take part.

According to Erth cofounder Scott Wright, things could not have gone more smoothly.

"The one thing that really stood out was how all these kids supported each other," he said. "These complete strangers walk into their school with a pile of puppets and stilts and within half and hour they're outside and up on stilts.

"They had spent a total of three hours on the stilts before they performed."

That old showbiz saying that warns against working with animals and children obviously doesn't wash with Mr Wright.

The student volunteers and the animals, albeit of the papier-mache variety, gave a memorable performance that worked perfectly in the carnival-style atmosphere created by the street parade.

And the smiles on their beaming faces afterwards told the story perfectly ? they loved every minute of it.

"I've worked with a lot of young people and I've never experienced it quite like this," Mr Wright said.

"Something clicked last night and it all worked.

"Any number of things could have gone wrong...but nothing went wrong."



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