“Drama? No drama!” If you’re a fan of ITV Drama such as ‘Cold Feet’ you’ll recognise this phrase as the strap line for the sponsors, More Than Insurance. If you’re a pupil, parent, or member of staff at Christ Church CE Primary, Surbiton, you’ll recognise this phrase as the caption that epitomises the Year 3 Shakespeare Project Week of ‘Romeo & Juliet’.
A tummy bug came to visit on Thursday and took out Romeo and Tybalt in the wedding scene – very sad for them, as they were doing exceptionally well in their roles in the first rehearsal. Then it seemed to grip poor Friar John in the tomb second rehearsal – life imitating art really, fresh from the plague house, Friar John threw up in the tomb – but drama? No drama! Everyone just carried on rehearsing whilst staff looked after the Friar and arrived with buckets and mops! Once again, I really felt for poor Friar John who was doing a brilliant job up until then.
Friday morning arrived and so did a few more sickness absences and the arrival of a 7 year old actor who’d not been in school all week but obviously wanted to be part of the show. He was bounced from Friar Laurence (who did arrive later) to Benvolio (who incidentally was also back for the afternoon performance) to just another party guest, but this young actor took it in his stride and did all that was asked of him without complaint. It’s a thankless task being an understudy but drama? No drama! Alas, poor Romeo in the balcony scene was also absent on the performance day, He’d worked so hard during the week, it was a real shame he missed the final day. However Lord Montague’s servant in the wedding scene was elevated to the additional role of Romeo in the famous balcony moment and with some last minute rehearsal during the morning, he gave a cracking performance as the love-struck star-crossed lover. Drama? No drama!
Now you know I mentioned ‘Cold Feet’ earlier? Well we had a bit of that last week too. Not surprising really – it’s quite something to stand up in front of over 100 people and pretend to be something you’re not when you’re only 7 and 8 years old. But what bravery we witnessed. Benvolio in the fight scene was overwhelmed in the ‘preview’ performance to the school on Friday morning, but in the afternoon, nerves were overcome, they dug deep and produced a confident, assured performance that made us all proud! Similarly it all got a bit much for the Apothecary in the morning and they decided it wasn’t for them (although again, they had been incredibly confident all week). No drama though, a party guest in another scene came to the rescue and learnt the part over lunchtime. What courage! At FINDING THE WILL we are big on ‘teamwork’ and when you see it in action like this, children covering each other’s backs with no fuss and no hesitation, it makes your heart sing!
We also had to address the sensitive issues contained within the play. There are not many adults who are not familiar with the story of Romeo & Juliet and, therefore, know that it doesn’t end well. It is, however, a story that can lead to a lot of discussion around feuds, street gangs, knives and ultimately suicide. All very timely you might say. We can’t change the tragic ending of the play and nor would we wish to – what we can do is encourage more conversations around the reasons why things went so wrong for Romeo and Juliet, what help might be available to them nowadays and how pointless it is to continually fight with each other without ever questioning why. This is another brilliant benefit of using drama to elicit discussion. And discussions we certainly had!
In the first week of our two week residency at Christ Church Primary, we led Years 1, 2, 4, 5 & 6 through the story in our Interactive Workshops. We had some brilliant conversations during these two hour sessions.For example what could possibly go wrong with Friar Laurence’s plan for Juliet to take the sleeping potion and Romeo to return when she wakes and take her back to Mantua with him? The potion could be past its sell by date of course! And then there was the possibility of building a wall to keep the Capulets and Montagues apart – a very interesting discussion followed about the advantages and disadvantages, and how it would actually work in practice. All in all, during the two weeks, just over 500 children hand jived to Blue Suede Shoes at the Capulet party before Romeo in Year 1 fell in love with his “family’s greatest Emily” (well “enemy” is not easy to say when you’re 5), and before our brave Year 3 actors shouted “Wake up!” to Juliet, as Romeo took the poison in the tomb. Totally gripped. Wonderful stuff!
So a massive thank you from Richard, Claudia and me to Miss Coton for inviting us back and to Miss Daly for liaising with me and organising the logistics of the whole fortnight. Also many thanks to the Year 3 staff who worked so calmly with the children when we were rehearsing others and, without whom, the drama would have been far more emotional! Hats off to you all but mostly Year 3 actors – including those that didn’t make it to the end because of illness – take another bow, you deserve it!