Catholic schools' Aspire production, Dark Matter, to play at Civic Theatre

A STORY set during a lockdown in a secondary school might not appear to be a good subject matter for a musical play, but this engrossing production by Aspire, the Hunter Catholic schools organisation that helps students develop their skills in performing arts, shows the very diverse impacts the event has on children, teachers and other people associated with a school.

There are amusing scenes, for example, that have boy and girl students, who were in the school’s adjoining toilets when the lockdown began, trying to communicate through a narrow gap in the wall just below the ceiling.

The students locked into classrooms react in very different ways, with some voicing feelings about others, the teachers, and things that have happened to them that they have previously not said.

The teachers are frustrated by the lockdown, with the event helping a new young male teacher to make up his mind that it’s not the job for him.

The staging, by Aspire artistic director Anna Kerrigan, who also wrote the play, and her team, has watchers sympathising with the characters at times, as well as laughing at the more amusing words and actions.

The song and dance routines have engagingly diverse styles. There is a Michael Jackson song, They Don’t Care About Us, which has children voicing their frustrations.

One song, presented while the students are discussing whether the lockdown has been caused by creatures such as vampires, has dance ensemble members dressed like white ghosts, with five of them moving around on long white stilts.

As indicated above, the staging team and the performers have made excellent use of the Civic Theatre stage area.

While many of the song-and-dance numbers have movement around the whole stage, there are scenes where the focus is on just a few people in a small space.

The school’s four cleaners, for example, whom neither teachers or students like, have a very funny sequence where they are voicing an amusingly revamped discussion between the witches in Macbeth.

The band ensemble, in the orchestra pit, likewise help make the variety of song styles very engaging.