Downham Academy students have drama tour is axed in copyright row

Downham Academy pupils in rehersals for their ill fated performance
Downham Academy pupils in rehersals for their ill fated performance

Devastated teenagers are the casualties of an international legal row which has forced them to cancel a play.

Youngsters from Downham Academy have had to call off their production of Flowers of Algernon due to a copyright wrangle between an English and American company.

The 23 pupils were due to take to the stage in Nordelph, Swaffham and Lynn to showcase the months of hard work in rehearsal.

Head of drama Cate Markwell said pupils had been devastated by the news of the last-minute cancellation.

“I feel really sad for the kids. When I told them there were a lot of tearful kids.”

She said she had no choice but to call off the tour as without copyright permission, insurance would be nullified.

The Year 9 to Year 13 pupils had been rehearsing for two months to perform Flowers for Algernon.

The school had permission to perform the piece by the playwright – but Mrs Markwell had called the US to check with the original author of a short story on which it was based. “I thought it would be a formality,” she said, “and was shocked when he raised an objection.”

Ironically, after calling off this week’s tour, which was due to take in Nordelph Village Hall, the Barn Theatre in Swaffham, and the Studio Theatre in Springwood before finishing at the Downham Academy, a text came through reversing that decision. But by then it was too late.

The play will still be performed at the 47-seat Downham Academy theatre on Saturday for free but Mrs Markwell said it was a great shame the tour was off.

“I have never come across this before,” she said. “They have really messed us around. There are a lot of distraught kids.”

Mrs Markwell has taken performers from the school to Australia before and next year they plan to return to Guernsey. “Next time, we will do a classic text, such as Shakespeare, which is out of copyright, to avoid these problems,” she said.