I like resources that KISS. ‘Keeping it simple and straightforward’ is a principle that works best for most lessons. Overcomplicate matters and things start to get messy. But one aspect of school life that’s near impossible to turn into a simple process is putting on a play.
Essentially, you’ve got three choices: 1) don’t do it, go off and travel the world instead, 2) write the script, write the music, do everything, cover yourself in treacle and have a breakdown, or 3) buy a ready-made resource and keep both your job and your sanity. Obviously, most of us go for number three. Not only because we value our mental health, but also because there are some really brilliant people out there who are incredible at producing plays and assembly songs so that your life can remain relatively uncomplicated.
The aptly named Easy Peasy Plays makes a very lemon-squeezy job of producing professional productions. Brothers Robin and Simon Horton set up the company, and they seem to know a thing or two about the pressures and the joys of putting on a show. With their skills for music, writing and directing, they have crafted plays that are fun and easy to learn, as well as being hugely entertaining.
If you are looking to take a magical, musical mystery trip around the world then you’ll be blown away by The Great Globetrotting Game, a board game like nothing you’ve seen. With every roll of the dice you will find yourself in a new and exciting country, saying konnichiwa and enjoying a cherry blossom festival in the Land of the Rising Sun one minute, and learning about the hundreds of cultural delights in Spain the next. After that you’ll head off to the birthplace of haute cuisine for some cheese, before hailing a pharaoh and sand dancing in ancient Egypt. It is scripted to be around 45 minutes in duration, with seven songs and 29 speaking parts, although you can easily adapt this to a different number of pupils. Even if you aren’t particularly music-orientated, this is a great show to stage. It’s fun, easy to use, and hugely entertaining – educational and enthralling.
If at the end of year celebrations you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of a ‘big glitzy jazz-hands finale’ affair, then The Leavers Show is for you. This play involves a television crew arriving at school to film an emotional goodbye to Year 6, with a look back through the years, capturing school-life from the nervous first day to the tearful, celebratory last one. This includes a sports day that doesn’t go to plan, an unforgettable cookery lesson, a fun day out and feeling the exam blues. Cheers and tears are guaranteed as everyone relives the ups and downs, and the laughter and tantrums, of school life, building to a grand show-stopping finale. This play also runs around 45 minutes long, with seven songs and 46 speaking parts for children which are, again, easily adaptable.
At £44.99 and £49.99 respectively, both shows represent excellent value because you get a lot. An awful lot, in fact. Each comes with a book and CD, a performance-copying licence, one-year’s online access to Click-n-Sing karaoke videos, editable and colour-coded scripts, MP3s of backing tracks, incidental music and sound effects, a cast and character list, production notes, prop list, a printable poster, editable brochure programme and production notes.
It takes a special set of skills to produce energetic and inclusive resources of this calibre, and both plays benefit from humorous and inventive writing, high-quality singing, creative music and professional production. What I think stands out here is the fact that the resources have really been written with children’s best interests at heart, not just teachers’. The easy-to-learn songs are written with children’s vocal ranges in mind, and they are powerful tools for learning that offer children a wonderful context in which to express themselves.
I can think of few better resources for staging a special show, and you needn’t be a music specialist or a drama queen to pull them off. They might not make moving on any easier but they will certainly make the farewell a fond and happy one, leaving everyone in a pleasant daze about their own school days.