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Luke Devery, centre, with Thames High School year 10 students Ellie Johnston, left, Kobe Brown, and Charlie Carr. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Thames High drama troupe steps up

Thames High School students have stood tall for their first public appearance on stilts.
The stilt walkers are part of the Thames High Troupe that was strapped in by drama teacher Luke Devery at the beginning of the year.
Luke told The Profile it was his passion project and he had introduced it to the students after teaching drama for 16 years at Waihī College.
“The reason for the troupe is so exciting – it takes the students out of the classroom into the real world and opens up professional and creative pathways that sometimes can be a bit hard to find,” he said.
Luke said the troupe also stemmed from his early years as a roving performer.
“I started as a mime clown way back in the day, and after a few years I went to Melbourne to study and got interested in taking it further so I studied at the John Bolton Theatre School,” he said.
“While I was at the school I got very interested in masks, physical theatre and melodrama and Shakespeare, and I came back and started an undergraduate degree to become a teacher.
“It was always the fun part that got me excited about being in that world and I’m trying to share that excitement with these kids and give them that pathway that takes them beyond their school work into something a bit more real.”
Luke said the year nine to year 13 students had been “very excited” to be part of the troupe.
“They’ve never seen anything like it before and it’s wonderful to see them bringing their own skill set into this work. They’re already making up new acts and exploring new ways of getting out there,” he said.
“With the mum and dad stilt walkers, it’s supposed to be an old world colonial severe temperance woman with a slightly addled husband pushing a pram with a contemporary 21st century baby in it.
“The giant pram, that’s a very old prop, it’s been to the Edinburgh and Glastonbury festival many times.”
Luke said stilt walking was also “not as hard as you think”.
“The only trouble is you’re strapped into them so you’re more vulnerable than you look and one of the first things we do is we teach [the students] how to fall,” he said.
“We also give solo performers another prop to give them a third point of balance, and they’re always wearing knee pads.”
Luke said the 24 hour Walkathon on November 4 was the first time the stilt walkers strutted their stuff to the public and new acts in the troupe would begin to follow.
“We put the stilt walkers out first because they are very visible, they look great in an environment because you can see them from a long way away, but there are a lot more masks, mime and character acts that we will put out as well,” he said.
“We’ll start to do events and festivals around the Coromandel and further abroad.”