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Dancers in matching glittery costumes posing in a group

Meet Chaperone Adeline Choo

Ahead of Bugsy Malone coming to Leeds Grand Theatre, we spoke to Adeline Choo, one of the chaperones, about her role in supporting the young cast.

Written by Ellen Carnazza.

Describe a day in the life of a Chaperone.

We work in a team (thankfully), otherwise, it’d be too tiring. At the moment, we usually have three chaperones who are with the children all day. A usual day starts anywhere between 7:15am – 8:00am. Our first task of the day is to give the children a wake-up call, usually about 45 minutes before breakfast. Then we all have breakfast together. If it’s term time, the children will be tutored in the morning on one-show days. This is usually when the chaperones can get a bit of ‘me’ time, but we take turns to get some time off.

During the school holidays, we’ll take the children out for some activities or to explore the city. There are usually opportunities to do this during term time too but this has to be balanced with tutoring. So far we’ve been to Sea Life in Birmingham, did a little bit of vintage shopping in Bath, and played some ping-pong and adventure golf.

Because Bugsy Malone has so many set pieces and costumes, and the children enter from so many different points of the stage, we usually get two local chaperones joining us as we need a fairly large team to ensure all of this happens safely. During the show, a chaperone works with the backstage team to ensure the children enter the stage on time, helps with costumes and quick changes for the children, and ensures they are able to get their props to their positions safely.  After the show, we usually head back to our accommodation and make sure the children are safely in their rooms.

In summary, our main responsibilities are to be with the children throughout the day, ensure that they are appropriately occupied (we wouldn’t want them just sitting in their rooms all day), keep them safe backstage, and ensure that, if there are additional rehearsals, the children aren’t working beyond the legal stipulations. As a travel chaperone, I also meet the children at the start of the week and travel with them to the touring venue and travel them back at the end of the week.

Can you tell us a little about the children and their roles in Bugsy Malone?

In Bugsy Malone, the children play the lead roles, including the title character. You’ll just be blown away by the talent of these young performers.

They have to play such a range of different characters who all have their own motivations and backstories. There are three children sharing each role and it’s really nice because, as a chaperone, you get to see how each child brings a little bit of their own interpretation to a role and how they interact with their characters. It’s just amazing how cerebral children are and how deeply they think about their characters.

It’s also lovely being able to witness the friendships these young people are developing. They’re generally so supportive of each other – it’s such a scary thing to put yourself out there in front of so many people at such a young age and to be reviewed as well! So it’s really nice that they’re ready to support and uplift each other when things sometimes don’t go as planned, or when someone does really well or gets a really good response from the audience. I think it bodes well for the future of theatre if this is the culture the young people are setting.

Two young men in suits holding up a young girl on their shoulder

Are you/the children local? Or do you tour together?

Well, because we’re going to so many cities, at some point someone may be a local. But generally, no. I’m based in London at the moment and I work on rotation with our other travel chaperone, Michaela. We take it in turns to travel the different teams back and forth.

What are the biggest challenges of being a Chaperone?

I would say the long hours because you’re basically with the children from breakfast till after the show. Sometimes, when the children are homesick or particularly excitable, it also means your working hours are extended because they’ll take longer to settle down and get to bed. I think another challenge is also keeping a group of children with diverse interests and food preferences happy. We’ve managed to come to a compromise so far!

What three skills do you think are most important in your role?

The ability to listen and communicate with children. I think it’s important not to jump to the conclusion that ‘bad’ behaviour is a young person being defiant or rebellious. Rather, it’s usually an indication of a concern that a young person may need help or space to communicate. Or maybe they’re just tired. We also need to be able to pick up on children’s non-verbal communication when they’re ill, tired, or upset.

Being alert is also important. We’re always looking out for potential safeguarding risks whether in the theatre or outside. Also, Directors, Choreographers, and Music Directors give notes, and sometimes children need a little reminder.

Finally, being able to regulate your own feelings. The days can be very long sometimes and it’s quite normal to be on a shorter fuse when you’re tired, so it’s really important for a chaperone to be aware of their own triggers and feelings and ensure that we’re not projecting these onto the children. That’s why it’s great having a team because we can take turns to ensure we get enough time to catch our breath.

A young person in a suit and hat holding a bunch of flowers being kissed on the cheek by a woman with black hair
Three people dressed in 1920s costumes sitting on stools in front of a bar
A young person hiding in a wicker basket

Could you tell us how you became a Chaperone? (Plus, any advice for aspiring chaperones?)

This is actually my first job as a professional licensed chaperone! So it’s been a learning curve but also loads of fun being backstage. Before this, I was a teacher in my home country, Malaysia, and when I came to the UK to do my Masters, I worked with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain as a member of the Support Team. The role is similar to that of a chaperone. I have done Support Work with the London Symphony Orchestra too. Having these experiences enabled me to submit the relevant references towards applying for the chaperone license with my local council. So I would say, start building your CV and gaining experience working with young people, whether it’s teaching or volunteering as a start.

Any particular career highlights?

I’m still very green in this career line so I hope the best is yet to come. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the company of our Bugsy Malone children cast. We have a very diverse cast and, as an immigrant, it’s been great being able to share our cultures with each other. We also have food conversations, which is really one of my favourite conversations to have.

And finally… Favourite thing to do on your day off?

As I work in rotation with Michaela, I get a week off as opposed to just a day! I have two favourite things: sleep past 8am (because I’m usually exhausted from the past week) and cook a homecooked meal.

Bugsy Malone is on at The Grand from Tue 30 Aug – Sat 4 Sep 2022. Buy your tickets now to Fat Sam’s Grand Slam!