Sheffield school play performed at the Fringe

Members of Ecclesfield School's Stage Left Theatre Group.
Members of Ecclesfield School's Stage Left Theatre Group.
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A SCHOOL play is being given a three-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Students from Ecclesfield School, performing as Ecco Theatre Group, will present an original piece of theatre entitled Exit Stage Left at the Fringe, opening next Friday.

Co-written and directed by teachers Paul O’Farrell and Ben Smithard, the play deals with dark and challenging themes with an element of comedy.

It is being performed by an 18-strong cast aged between 13 and 17.

“The idea was to advance this theatre company which is affiliated to the school,” says O’Farrell, “Ben and I 
wanted to give the students something beyond what they would get at 
school by creating a piece that was a bit more serious and adult. We wanted to bridge the gap where some young actors leave school and that’s it. We see this as a stepping stone to enable them to keep being involved.

“We have a lot of talented young people who want to make a career out of the performing arts and this will be valuable for them but for everyone it’s a chance of a lifetime.”

The play, about a former Hollywood director rehearsing a play whose plot about a film star’s murky past is gradually revealed as having an element of truth about it, was first performed last year at the EPPiC Theatre in Ecclesfield.

“We have also performed it at school but we did it at the EPPiC to see what a wider audience would make of it. A couple of people afterwards mentioned the Edinburgh Fringe and that sparked our imagination. We knew it was a big step but Ben and I went up to the festival last year with some of the cast. They, of course, found it very exciting.”

Having decided to take the chance the next step was to find a venue which entailed sending out a video and details of the show. A reply came back from Greenside offering them the use of their 100-seater venue.

“It’s in an old church and it should look good in that space,” says Paul O’Farrell. “We were offered three weeks which is longer than we thought but the cast were delighted.”

As well as the venue, they needed to find somewhere to say and they managed to find a flat big enough to accommodate the whole cast, two backstage crew and the two teachers.”

An extensive fund-raising drive has been undertaken. “We’ve been impressed with how supportive local people have been, right across Sheffield, with donations and good luck messages,” says the director.

Exit Stage Left will be performed at the Greenside venue at 5.20pm each night from August 3-18.