Skellig, the summer production at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, west London, was a gripping and intense drama.
The audience sat riveted, almost willing the happy ending that the play finally provided. The actors were middle school pupils aged 13 to 15.
The play is based on the novel by David Almond. Michael moves with his family into a dilapidated house. Exploring in the garage, he finds a strange man, Skellig, and decides to look after him. Soon this man takes over Michael’s life.
Thirteen-year-old James Porter played the key role of Michael with a conviction that went straight to the heart. Crotchety and arthritic, “27 and 53”, Skellig (Oliver Maynard) gained the audience’s sympathy as the drama progressed and eccentric Mina (Madeleine Davidson-Houston) galvanised Michael to action. Catherine Bench played Mum with a maturity that belied her years, with Dimitris Kouimtsidis as Dad.
At regular intervals the audience was brought back down to earth by the classroom and hospital scenes, during which teacher Rasputin (Emre Kose) and Doctor McNabola (Aidan Fusco) injected their particular brand of humour.
A particularly moving passage was when Miss Clarts (Ilayda Nijhar) read a story about Skellig which Michael had written, predictably dismissed by the class as complete nonsense.
Director John Padden put his unmistakable stamp on the production with innovative use of stage and props, changing backgrounds with remarkable speed. This was a classic performance and a joy to watch.