Aladdin: scenery and props
When staging any production, the temptation to really go to town with the scenery can be great. Yet, a simple set with a few colourful extras can be just as effective as busy stage decoration.
Try covering the back wall of your performance area with plain white sheets (these can be picked up very cheaply from your nearest big supermarket) and painting large Chinese symbols onto them in bright or even fluorescent paint. If sheets aren’t an option, you can use rolls of wallpaper, pinning up lengths so that the plain back of the paper is showing, ready to paint.
On either side of the performance space, you’ll need to create an off-stage area – known in the theatre as the wings. These areas are where your pupils will go when they step off stage to change their costume or collect a prop, and they are relatively simple to make. One way is to use a free-standing clothes rail over which you hang a curtain or length of dark-coloured cloth. You can also fix a broom handle onto a wall bracket and hang the curtain that way.
You will find your performance runs a lot smoother if you are able to move any performers from the wing space and into a nearby classroom when they’re not required on stage. The wings can very quickly become cramped if there are lots of people milling about, and it can be difficult to keep everyone quiet. If you can construct your wing space so that it covers a doorway to a classroom or corridor, you will be saving yourself a lot of headaches!
Finally, you may require a cross-over area to get actors from one side of the stage to the other without being seen. If you have a corridor that runs behind your performance area, this is ideal. If you don’t, and everyone has to come back onto the stage from the same side they last exited to – you’ll need to remember this when directing the play.
Props is short for properties and, in the world of theatre, this means everything the actors carry or use on stage, or anything that is used to decorate or ‘dress’ the set. Making props is a superb class activity, and it’s something that can be done over a period of time as you lead up to your performance.
To decorate your Cave of Doom scene, gather together as many basic items as you can – then spray them all with gold paint (making sure to choose a well-ventilated area and to wear a mask over your mouth and nose). You will be amazed how different a set of plastic picnic plates or a battered old lamp looks when sprayed gold. Add as many items as you can find that look like jewels (raid charity shops for bangles and necklaces you can stick sequins to), and you have everything for the spirits to carry on and lay at Aladdin’s feet as the Genie transforms him to a Prince.
For Twankey’s laundry, fill washing baskets with piles of old clothes. The washing line that’s wound round Twankey’s waist is simply a length of rope with items of clothing sewn in place. For Wishee’s Wash-a-Tron 3,000 – use a large cardboard box covered with painted switches and dials – or glue on deodorant spray lids and toothpaste tube caps. If you can put the whole thing on a piece of wood with wheels – even better!