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High Praise for Living the Dream from Professor Irving Benjamin!

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Living the Dream –

The Big Reveal, the innovative arts organisation noted for its collaborative music and drama projects, often based around the local communities of East Kent, staged their latest production in Gravesend and at the University of Kent in Canterbury last week. The project was sponsored by Arts Council England, the Lawson Trust, the Kent Community Foundation and Kent Music.

Living The Dream certainly lived up to its name in fulfilling the organisation’s goal of meeting the needs of children and young adults with learning and physical disabilities. Students from more than a dozen schools from the Kent special Educational Needs Trust had not only been trained to perform the complex music and dramatic staging of the story created by Martin Riley, but also built the elaborate costumes used in the performance. These included a seven-foot animated monster arising from the deep, an erupting volcano, a fully articulated bird with a twelve-foot wingspan and wild white horses! The work of the students was also shown in an accompanying exhibition in the foyer, curated by artist, Nova Marshall, highlighting the breadth of their creative talent. A large “audience” of those students who were not on stage participated fully throughout, singing and playing a range of percussion instruments and keyboards. The original score written by education director David Burridge, was performed by the Revelation Strings, a twenty-strong ensemble along with solo violinist Mahaliah Edwards. Artistic director Matthew Sharp had to take over as conductor at both performances, as David was unfortunately absent due to Covid. Martin Riley had stepped into Matthew’s role as narrator for that performance.

Martin’s simple but engaging story was acted out with huge enthusiasm. When Kelli-ma’s dark energy is released from her yellow backpack by Pandra-da and friends it takes the form of a Demon Queen whose monstrous manifestations drive them out of their homes and follow them as they search the seas for a safe haven. And when they do, eventually, reach the land of their dreams, they find her there waiting for them. The music was sung out with gusto, including a sea shanty from the young mariners which earned a reprise at the end. Choreographer Olivia Ealham of Liv4Dance provided the dance element to supplement the action. Burridge’s musical score was rich and satisfying, making no concession to the young age of the student participants, and carried the action along with dynamism. I felt privileged to be present at this magical performance, bringing together the well-established creative talents of the Big Reveal team in promoting the nascent creativity in their young participants.

Professor Irving Benjamin

To purchase a copy of the wonderful book that accompanies the show and features beautiful illustrations created by the young people who took part in this project, please follow the link to our website.

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