Walker Books Australia
Reviewed by Elinor Couper
Carole Wilkinson, the award-winning author of the Dragonkeeper and Ramose series, has revisited her 1996 book, Stagefright. This is a terrific rewriting of Carole’s first book. It is filled with music and poetry, movement and change, humour and delight, updated for a whole new cohort of readers, who’ll enjoy poor Velvet Pye’s consternation at being forced to attend Yarrabank High. This grungy school and its collection of temporary classrooms is populated by bullies, dummies, emos and boy-crazed girls, all under the inept leadership of a sports-mad principal
Cultivated Velvet S Pye, a year 9 student, used to have it all – private school, luxury holidays, and loads of friends. Then Velvet finds herself starting at Yarrabank High after her family experiences a huge change in their economic status. Yarrabank is co-ed, culturally diverse, and totally sports-mad, a stark contrast to her former school, St Theresa’s for Girls.
After spending many hours devising ways of getting out of sport, Velvet deftly dodges sport and is relegated to the “Cultural Studies” class along with fellow students Drago Domitrovic (Yr 10), Taleb Haddad (Yr 10), Peter Duong (Yr 11), Jesus Mbele (Yr 12), Mei Hua Qian (Yr 9), Hailie Murchison (Yr9), and Roula Anagnostopoulos(Yr 9). This class takes place in a classroom that is more like a storeroom as it is filled to the brim with excess sport equipment. Velvet has always been a high achiever. The teacher here spends the whole time sleeping over a desk at the back while the class runs amok. Things change when the principal orders the class to put on a Shakespeare performance.
The group decides to do a new take on Shakespeare’s Richard III and Velvet finds a new interest when “Stagefright”, their theatre group is created. Finally she has a challenge she can sink her teeth into and prove that she is able to fit in. The play becomes a source of reinvention for all the students in some way or another. The teacher comes out of hibernation to reveal a character of great creativity and support.