Australia’s Cockatoo Island has a chequered past as a former shipyard and prison turned nature reserve – but recent school holidays saw it transformed once more. The UNESCO world heritage site in the city of Sydney became the scene for intergalactic adventure and time-travelling mystery as the BBC’s Doctor Who came to Australia in a whole new form.
For three years, NIDA, Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, has offered a range of Doctor Who-themed holiday courses for children and young people, taught by industry professionals. I dropped in to see what was on offer and speak with the team behind this unique education programme.
This year, Designing Doctor Who students spent three days creating their own detailed alien worlds and artefacts, while Writing Doctor Who students got the opportunity to devise mini-scripts performed by students on the Acting on Screen: Doctor Who course in front of an audience of parents and friends.
The holiday activities including location shooting on Cockatoo Island, where one student-penned adventure saw the Doctor and his companion Amy pursued by Fashion Police opposed to bow ties and short skirts!
Peter Mountford, Manager of Youth and Holiday activities at NIDA, said, “This was the third holiday program at NIDA to feature Doctor Who themed courses and I am pleased to say that it was the most successful yet. Both tutors and students had a fantastic time filming their self-devised Doctor Who stories out at Cockatoo Island – a setting that is perfect for time-travelling adventurers!”
NIDA’s Open Programme, encouraging part-time community enrolment at the academy, has been running for twenty years. A unique deal with BBC Worldwide has allowed NIDA to offer special Doctor Who-themed courses with special access to scripts and props from the original show.
‘Using sample scripts from the most recent shows really supports our young writers and performers,’ said Peter. ‘It’s so difficult to find good scripts for younger age groups, but the writing on Doctor Who really stands up.
‘Doctor Who courses in particular continue to encourage participation from boys in drama, which is great to see. We even get some participants who are Who fans first and drama fans second!’
With 2013 seeing the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who’s first TV broadcast, Peter and his team hope to build on their association with the series well into 2012 and beyond – but that’s not all that’s in the pipeline for young drama fans at NIDA.
‘We’re already planning for the next summer holidays,’ says Peter, ‘when we’re hoping to offer superhero-themed courses and stand up comedy workshops for kids, as well as more Doctor Who!’
Find out more about Youth and Holiday Programmes at NIDA from http://www.nida.edu.au/short-courses/default.aspx