A group of Indigenous students from a remote part of the Northern Territory has had a close encounter with the bright lights of Melbourne’s theatre scene, and it is due to the generosity of their teacher, and her friends.
Sue Davidson paid over $3,500 out of her own pocket to take her students to a performance of the Disney musical, Aladdin, before using crowd funding to recover most of the costs.
“It was a bit of a risk, pushing that button was a bit nerve-wracking because it was going to be the most expensive night out in Melbourne that I would have ever been to, but anyway, it came good. I had a feeling that I would get support,” she told AM.
My friends, bless them all, and people I didn’t even know heard about it, and it went a little bit viral and we got the money for it, and so here we are.”
Ms Davidson teaches the year 7, 8 and 9 students in the community of Ampilatwatja, which is halfway between Alice Springs and Mt Isa in Queensland.
Each year students who have shown a good behaviour and attendance record go on a trip to visit other schools in Victoria, but this is the first time a theatre performance has been included in the program.
“[It is] giving them a sample of life and a taste of what’s going on out there, because they really live in a very secluded world,” Ms Davidson said.
“Just to even experience the fact that there’s this world where they might be able to become actors themselves or get involved with the music or the production, or the art side of it, they’re very good artists, a lot of them, and they’re very capable, they just lack confidence.”
When the producers of the show heard the students would be attending they invited them backstage to meet the cast and crew, pose for photographs and learn more about the production.
One of the show’s stars, American actor Michael James Scott, who plays the Genie, asked for his own photo with the group.
Ms Davidson said they will continue to study the story of Aladdin, once they return to Ampilatwatja.
“The basic theme of the whole show is about being trapped in the world that you’re trapped in; Aladdin is trapped in poverty, the Genie is trapped in the lamp, the Princess is trapped in the fact that she has to marry a prince and not for love, and the Sultan’s trapped in the fact that he has to make his daughter unhappy.
“So I just thought that I might be able to expand that and use that for the children to start thinking about the world that they live in as Indigenous students in the remote NT, and the world they could be trapped in,” she said.
But there is a sting to the happy tale.
Ms Davidson, and her generous friends, had to pay so much for the tickets because she unknowingly bought them through the reseller Viagogo, which is being taken to court by the consumer affairs watchdog.
“When I actually printed them [the tickets] off and realised they were less than half the price of what I paid, I realised that I had been scammed and I’d asked my friends to support that unwittingly, and that makes me very upset.”