The Magic of Theatre for ISZL Book Fortnight

Joanna Cull

When Covid regulations came between ISZL Primary School and the wonder of the Story Pocket Theatre company, creative thinking (and a little technical wizardry) saved the day.


Children pulling a rope in theatre production


When Covid regulations came between ISZL Primary School and the wonder of the Story Pocket Theatre company, creative thinking (and a little technical wizardry) saved the day.

ISZL Primary School celebrated book fortnight between November 2 and 13, with a range of activities devoted to fostering a love of reading. 

One of the highlights this year was a visit from the UK-based Story Pocket Theatre company, with interactive plays for students which bring drama to life, usually allowing children on stage to take part in the action. 

However, the Covid regulations, including a second UK lockdown, meant the company was no longer able to come to Switzerland - and some fast thinking was called for. 

Arrangements were made for the play to be put on in a theatre in the UK. Due to the UK lockdown putting a stop to theatrical productions, a special broadcasting exemption had to be obtained. These considerations meant that technical expenses were now greater than the usual cost of flying out the theatre company! 

Fortunately, the ISZL Fund for Excellence, which sponsors the event, stepped in to meet those additional costs, including more camera and lighting staff for the event so the audience could see and hear all the action. 

Children applauding


The production was based on two well-loved books by Allan and Janet Ahlberg, The Jolly Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman. Students read The Jolly Postman and had access to it as a dramatisation online. Writing engagements have been connected into lessons as well. Excitement growing, it was time for the production taking place simultaneously in the Baarburg Theatre, ISZL and the Applecraft Arts Theatre in East London. 

Props such as the ropes used to pull the Jolly Postman to safety were visible in both theatres, giving students the feeling that they too were helping with the action. Actors could hear the students interacting at school thanks to the power of Zoom, and at the end of the three live performances, Question and Answer sessions took place. Covid measures meant only one Grade group at a time could be present in the theatre, so some students had the event streamed to their classrooms. 

“The children were totally into it”, said ISZL Librarian Elizabeth Meeks. “They were shouting back at the screen and doing all the actions. The rope to pull the Jolly Postman out of the swamp had been there from the start of the performance but when it became part of the production the children were saying “where did that appear from?” and pulling on the rope”.

"It was awesome - it seemed so real!"

ISZL”s Performing Arts teacher, Kirsty Kelly, said “In a world of change, I am so happy that we were able to work creatively to allow professional live performances within ISZL still to happen. Thanks to technology, we managed to create that interactive, joyful experience that the Performing Arts brings. It was a first for both ISZL and StoryPocket theatre to work in this way but really demonstrates that when thinking out of the box and not giving up, that anything can happen if you really want it to. 

“I was supporting remotely and being able to see the theatre in England and the ISZL theatre on the same screen as well as being virtually connected to the tech crew in England, our ISZL tech support, our ISZL theatre support and both the ISZL Primary School library and drama department, I know why I love my job and the collaboration that it brings. It was definitely a team effort that brought a little sparkle to our students’ lives  - ‘It was awesome - It seemed so real!’”

The post theme continues on campus, with students writing letters to their favourite fairytale characters, and ISZL’s very own jolly postbird, Eddie the Eagle, picking up the mail. Eddie’s postal duties will continue until December 1 when the mail will be used to create our very own ISZL story book - Eddie the Eagle delivers the mail.


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