Full-scale drama has made a return to a Cumbrian school after covid put paid to theatre.

Following three dull years without a Christmas production, Kirkby Stephen Grammar School staged a production of Matilda the Musical jr. The musical was seen by over 950 people in December including 300 students from local primary schools who viewed the performance free of charge.

During the planning of the production, there was a constant fear in the heads of those in charge: Covid-19. To avoid covid scuppering the show, the director, Lauren Whitehead, chose to double cast all but three major roles, including Miss Trunchbull and the dance ensemble.

Mrs Whitehead said that on the face of it, the double casting was a way to avoid her “biggest nightmare that one of the big characters would get covid.” But added: “moving forward I would definitely do it again. It allowed us to have more talented students in the bigger roles.” Mrs Whitehead added that it meant that more KSGS students would have the opportunity to have a go at theatre during their time at school.

When it came to the casting of the villain of the tale though, Mrs Whitehead said: “I did actually cast two Trunchbulls to begin with.” But following the dropping out of the second headmistress and a conversation with the still standing Trunchbull, Amy Simkins, she said: “there was no one else who could do it; it was out of necessity not necessarily choice”.

All was going swimmingly until the final rehearsal when Matilda, aka Tabitha Paul, fell ill and was unable to sing. Mrs Whitehead said: “It was all because of bugs going round and intense rehearsals.” Luckily, the double casting meant the show could go on but as her cold persisted, Tabitha, 12, was also unable to perform on her last night as well.

 Mrs Whitehead said that it was a bitter blow for Tabitha: “She’d worked so hard and was such an amazing Matilda and when she wasn’t able to perform, it was a very emotional night for all involved.”

Despite the mishaps with the lead role, the performance was a great success and will go down in history at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School.