A quiet street comes to life. Groups of teenagers and children, a mime, skateboarder, tap-dancers, mannequins in store windows, a little girl on stilts and clowns in colourful costumes move to the lively beat of the song "Dancing in the Street" by Mick Jagger and David Bowie. The dancing gives way to animated conversation, the actors and actresses easing into dialogues effortlessly, and drawing the audience into a story that is as entertaining as it is informative.
Watching a scene from the play SOS, one is struck by the remarkable talent shown by a cast that is diverse in both age and ethnicity. Ranging from ages 11 to 18, with various nationalities such as Swiss, German, Filipino and Sri Lankan, each youngster in the performance exhibits unique talents and unstinting enthusiasm that promises to make this, the annual concert of the Elizabeth Moir School an extraordinary occasion.
The play is directed by Aida Mansoor, who combines her love and experience of theatre, years of teaching biology and passion for protecting the environment into a remarkably multi-faceted story revolving around a group of orphans who are fighting to save their orphanage from demolition.
Romance and suspense weave together a plot that brings out the negative aspects of deforestation and the benefits of protecting the environment.
"The story stems from a recent newspaper article I read about Bartles Woods in Felthamstone, England, being destroyed for a construction project and of the negative impact on the environment" says Aida. In SOS, the orphans wage a similar battle to protect their home and the woods, and the story ends with a twist that will surprise and fascinate the audience.
For the youngsters themselves, preparing for the play has been an incredible experience, allowing them to experiment with various song, dance and acting techniques. Many of the moves in their dances have been self-choreographed, explains Aida, adding that the dances involve a combination of hip-hop, ballroom and tap dancing. "I feel that this performance has the most amount of variety, compared to previous performances," says Sheron Cassim (17), who plays Benny, one of the older and more aggressive orphans, adding that the whole cast has had so much fun working together and trying out various techniques during rehearsals. Some of the dances have also been choreographed by past pupil Natasha Jayasuriya and teacher, Erin Rae Peterson.
The lovely singing is also something to anticipate in the performance, with Alexander Vogt (15) singing "You to Me are Everything," Tharuka de Silva(15), singing "I Don't Need a Man" Han Young Park(18) singing "Michelle," and Imla Ikram(17) singing "I'll Stand by You." The acapella version of "Apologise" is something that the students have produced by themselves, and is a delightful rendition of this popular song.
"These performances always turn out to be very good," says Principal, Elizabeth Moir. "With such an international cast, each student contributes something unique to the performance." It is indeed an exhibition of an assorted range of talents, bringing together song, dance and drama in a performance that will captivate and delight audiences.
SOS takes place on October 31 and November 1, at the Bishop's College Auditorium, at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at Elizabeth Moir Senior School 4/20 Thalakotuwa Gardens, Colombo 5.