Since I started working with Hopscotch Theatre in Glasgow I have been invited to dress rehearsals of all their new school productions. Recently I went to see my brilliant mother penguin Louise Montgomery performing as a police officer in Fire! Police! Ambulance! There was a big audience of parents and children, and we sat around four sides of a raised black-and-white platform stage. As the actors did a lot of singing and dancing, I was nervous that someone would fall off! Luckily nobody did.
The main character is a teenage boy called Peter who tends to panic at the slightest problem. Jason Park plays this role with plenty of energy, running at full tilt in one direction and then another at each new “crisis.” His father, who is played by Wullie Brennan, is very patient with his over-excited son as he tries to explain the difference between a real emergency and something less important.
Through the course of the performance (about 55 minutes in all), young Peter learns all about the three emergency services. First is the police, and the constable teaches him the first lesson about what to do in an emergency: the number to call. All three actors break into a brilliant performance of the 999 Song, and they teach the audience to sing the chorus. To listen to a recording of the 999 Song, click HERE and look on the right-hand column for The 999 Song – with vocals.
Next Peter spends some time with a firefighter and an ambulance driver (also played by Wullie Brennan) and learns what kind of emergencies require their help. Peter’s father has a new job answering the phones at the Emergency Services call centre, so Peter also learns how important it is NOT to dial 999 for a joke.
The production was written by Raymond Burke (both words and music) and it’s full of action, great songs and silly humour to keep a young audience fully engaged. The actors interact often with the audience, and the valuable information the children learn is conveyed brilliantly through rhyme and repetition in a fun way.
In addition, teacher Mark McLaughlin has produced some excellent Classroom Resources for schools which can be downloaded free from the Hopscotch website. This way teachers can reinforce the main points of the show later in the classroom.
The current tour of Fire! Police! Ambulance! is appearing in schools for the next six weeks, and there are dates still available after 21 October. In my opinion it’s a winner!