herald

Monday 24 April 2017

Mortified teachers, excited kids and no homework for a year

Al Porter and the cast at the school in Ballymun
Al Porter and the cast at the school in Ballymun

Hundreds of school children got an early Christmas treat with the staging of a surprise panto starring comedian Al Porter and Dustin the Turkey.

About 300 students - including 130 from the local girls' school - were called into the auditorium at the Virgin Mary Boys National School in Ballymun yesterday not knowing what to expect.

Their school beat around 300 schools throughout the country in a competition sponsored by the Herald and 98FM.

Excited

The schools were vying to bring a scaled-down version of The Ugly Sisters and Yer Wan panto - running at The Olympia Theatre over the Christmas break - to the excited students.

The kids knew something was up when Al Porter, as panto Dame Polly, and Dustin as his wisecracking puppet self, rolled up at the school gates.

They treated them to the "Dubliner's version" of classic fairytale, Cinderella.

"The excitement was palpable," said Al, (23).

"Everybody was great. The kids didn't know they had won. For a lot of kids, it was the first time they've ever seen a live performance," he said.

Their enthusiasm could be heard blocks away from the school, according to principal Brendan Taaffe.

"It was absolutely fantastic," he said.

Along with serenading the pupils with his own twist on classic Christmas songs and carols, Dustin the Turkey proved a huge hit with the kids - especially when they declared there would be no homework for the children for a year, according to Al.

"It was a bit like a Donald Trump election promise," he said.

Dragged

However, it was the sight of Mr Taaffe and his counterpart, girls' school principal Patricia Nolan, being "made a show of" that really delighted the young audience.

Student teacher Stephen Moore was also put under the spotlight when Al picked him from the audience due to his "blue-eyed blonde" good looks.

"His face went pure red," Mr Taaffe said of the young teacher's mortification as Polly dragged him on stage for a dance routine.

The staff were also delighted at the good-natured act. "Yes, they man-handled me but it was all in good fun," Mr Moore said.

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