Monday 13 May 2013


Stagefright by Carole Wilkinson (Walker Books)
PB RRP $18.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Cultivated rich girl Velvet S Pye arrives at Yarrabank High, a culturally diverse co-ed with low standards in literacy due to a high concentration on performance results in sport. Her family’s changed economical and employment status has turned her world into a nightmare from which she expects to awake very soon. The students at Yarrabank talk dirty to one another and about each other in a strange interpretation of the English language.

After trying to inculcate Velvet into some sort of sports event, the headmaster gives up and she ends up in the cultural studies class. This turns out to be an experience in itself and even more confusing as a subject to Velvet who has always been a high achiever. The teacher here spends the whole time sleeping over a desk at the back while the class runs amok. But during these teething times at the school, Velvet and the readers learn a lot about the diversity of the school, the reasons for the way it is, and the fact that all things and people are not always what they seem.

End of the year is approaching and evidence of cultural activity is demanded from the cultural studies class. A new take on Shakespeare’s Richard The Third is decided on and Velvet finds a new interest when Stagefright, their theatre group is created. Finally she has a challenge she can sink her teeth into and prove that she is able to fit in.

The play becomes a source of reinvention for all the students in some way or another. The teacher comes out of hibernation to reveal a character of great creativity and support, while the production proves that hidden inside everyone is something that longs to surface. It simply waits to be given the opportunity.

This is a terrific rewriting of Carole’s first book. It is filled with music and poetry, movement and change, humour and delight. This novel is a highly successful reinvention of something old in every way.

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