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So it's been 9 days since I tested positive for the dreaded CV-19. I have waited near enough 2 years to get it despite several 'near misses' and periods of isolation without a positive test. Luckily for me, I managed to test positive after 3 vaccinations, so, whilst I was ill and very run-down at first, I got away with only a few days of actually being poorly. That of course meant the rest of my half term was spent stuck at home with some pretty stir-crazy children, but we survived. The most frustrating element of this experience was having to cancel my sessions the first week back after half term. Due to the rules in place and the fact that I was still testing positive I felt it was appropriate to cancel. By next week we are free of rules and I will be free of positive tests, and therefore we will be back working together in our sessions, I can't wait!

Last half term was huge for us at Pip Drama, with one of our groups working successfully towards a performance on the last day of half term. This was our first big performance as a 'Drama School' and I feel very lucky that the group of young people I got to work with for this are such and enthusiastic and talented group of people. We had a very short period of time to put the performance together. In total we had 8 hours of rehearsal from receiving our scripts to performance. This would be tough for a professional cast, but none of our Pips complained about it, they just did their best with what we had. We had to rely heavily on the help of the cast and their support networks, gathering props and costumes and working with the constant threat of CV-19 hanging over us. Some actors had to self isolate during rehearsal time and many were worried they would have to self-isolated for the performance and miss out, myself included. Again, I feel very lucky to have the support we have in this regard, I understand how busy people's lives are and adding making costumes and driving children to unusual venues is not always straightforward.

On the day we had an audience of over 60, which was daunting for the actors who were already a little overawed by the performance space itself and working under the lights for the first time. It was the first time many of them have ever experienced that type of environment and it can feel intimidating even if you are used to it, especially as the audience arrives and the sound in the venue shifts form a large empty studio to the hubbub of expectation. The performers handled the situation admirably, and the feedback from the event was really positive. Audience members mentioned how much the actors had enjoyed the process, and the buzz they demonstrated afterwards. People also commented on how well they worked as an ensemble, supporting each other and never leaving any cast member struggling. For some of the young actors it has helped them develop and grow in confidence within friendship groups and peers not just in drama but in other situations as well. On the day I also felt the pride many of the young people felt in what they were able to do in such a short space of time, and the sense of ownership and collaboration they developed over it, coming up with new ideas for others as well as for themselves and trying to ensure the performance was the best that they could imagine it. I hope that they all understand that even if things did go wrong on the day, which they always do however long you have been doing this type of thing for, part of the process is learning to manage these things and understand that these kinds of things do happen, and that they can be managed, or simply just accepted as part of the process.

All in all I feel very privileged to have witnessed their growth as a group and as young performers and as young people over the previous few weeks and months, and I am excited about what we might be able to do next and where what we learn might be able to take us.

I would like to extend a special thanks to all our families and friends, especially Laura (prop provider extraordinaire), Jo (on the day support and photography), Liz (on the day support, videography and general dogsbody), Vlad and Caleb (technical support) and all of the lovely people who found costumes, enthused about the performance and helped put away chairs and strike the set at the end!

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