March has been a mad MACBETH month! And we’ve thrown in a couple of MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM workshops for good measure too. It has been a veritable banquet of the bizarre, the brave and the best. Read on for just a taste of the delights we’ve experienced this month.

St Michael’s Junior School, Chelmsford

Two years ago we visited this lovely school for the first time with THE TEMPEST. How brilliant then that Years 5 & 6 (3&4 two years ago) remembered it so well and were really eager to tell us of their roles last time. It didn’t take long though for the MACBETH Murder Mystery to take hold and hook them in!

Story board of the plot of Macbeth by Year 4 and Mrs Orton, St Michael's Junior, Chelmsford
Year 4 Plot Story Board

Menu Choice and Ambitions

On the menu for the King’s Banquet at Glamis Castle on the first day in Chelmsford was some traditional fayre: Big Mac ‘n’ Cheese (a delicacy made in honour of the host obvs); caviar; chicken nuggets and a boar’s head……raw!!! If King Duncan had eaten that, perhaps all Lady Macbeth’s dreams would have come to fruition in a more natural and public way! Mind you, the offerings on Day Two, though inventive, were not that much more appetising, – Triceratops Steak; Crocodile Head and a Dead Duck (a relief to all no doubt that it was actually dead!)!

When it comes to ambitions – let’s be honest, Lady Macbeth wanting to be Queen is SO predictable! – we had some amazing hopes and dreams, Zoo Keeper was popular, as was footballer and teacher, but how about Conservationist, Tattoo Artist and Wrestler?! Come on! This is what dreams are made of!

Nick and I loved our two days with the children and staff of St Michael’s (which also provided us with a cracking lunch each day). Huge thanks to Mrs Orton for organising the visit. We hope we might see you again in another couple of years!

“When we came back to class and produced a plot summary together, the amount that they had retained was phenomenal – names, locations, actions – and they were also able to explore all the themes that the play presents.  They are absolutely LOVING Shakespeare!”

Mrs Orton, Year 4, St Michael’s Junior School, Chelmsford

Thank you Abigail – Year 3.

St Dominic’s School

From Chelmsford, Nick and I journeyed on to Surrey and St Dominic’s, a highly regarded special school. We’ve been here twice before and it is an incredible place. This visit was to work with Year 7 on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Getting up, putting on a hat, and playing a character is not everybody’s cup of tea, we get that – so Nick and I began the workshop donning hats various ourselves. It wasn’t long before we had a really enthusiastic volunteer who played several parts in the end. Actually, by the end of the first workshop, virtually everyone was wearing a hat and playing a role. And those that weren’t, contributed in other ways – suggesting possible love interests for Titania (“a fat slug”) for example. The second workshop produced some more energetic performances including from a member of staff. Fabulous to see the warm connection between students and teacher. In both workshops there was some concern over the name of the Changeling Boy, (he was thus named ‘Bob’ and ‘Cappy Prometheus’ respectively – and why not?). We also saw and heard two terrific Pucks and, if you’ll pardon the expression, two brilliant Bottoms! Once again huge thanks to Miss Grant and Mrs Pryor for making this visit happen – we look forward to the next time!

“I have heard nothing but good things about the day so thank you for ensuring that pupils were engaged and clearly got a lot from the workshops. Until next time.. “

Head of English and Head of Lower School

St Catherine of Siena, Birmingham

Next stop in the Mad March Macbeth Marathon was St Catherine’s of Siena in Birmingham. This was my second visit to this fabulous school and, I hope, not my last. Once again i worked with Year 6 on MACBETH and Year 5 on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

First up was Year 6 (they did The Dream with me last year, so veterans of FINDING THE WILL). Aside from the great (and somewhat surprising to the teachers anyway) performances, there were some cracking additions to the menu for the King’s Banquet. In 17 years of FTW workshops, we have never had ‘filet mignon’ on the table! Alongside red wine, champagne and ham sandwiches, who could ask for more? here’s what some of Year 6 thought of the morning:

Jaya: I enjoyed how some of us were small characters however at the end it turned out that all of our parts were important and there was a big twist at the end. I liked how Macbeth was a normal person who didn’t expect to be King however soon changed and became a murderer.

Veronika: I liked how we all got to play a part and the story was great!

Mosiah: I enjoyed the workshop because it was really fun and I liked how we got to re-enact the story and it helped us to actually understand the story of Macbeth. It was really good that even if you didn’t have a main part, you could still join in.

Mary: I liked how we were able to challenge our inner actor and how Jules helped us to understand the difficult language that Shakespeare used when he actually wrote it.

Noah: I liked how we got to learn new words from 400 years ago and how there is no definite end to the play and we can all make our own assumptions.

Akariyo: I liked how Macduff and Macbeth had a sword fight at the end and how we had to act out the battle.

Year 6, St Catherine of Siena

In the afternoon I left Scotland for the only time that week. I headed to Athens with Year 5 for A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. As complicated as this story is (and it is incredibly complicated!), it is fantastic to hear the gasps and laughter when Puck’s endeavours go wrong. It never ceases to amaze me how children keep up with who is in love with whom and, therefore, who needs the antidote. Needless to say, Year 5 at St Catherine’s did not disappoint!

Lucas: I loved how there was a lot of changes and who liked who in the story, including a love triangle!

Skylar: I loved how she gave me a part and included everyone in the roleplay.

Charlotte: I enjoyed acting as somebody else and I think it boost my confidence a little bit.

Tianna: I enjoyed learning the Midsummer’s Dream in more depth.

Sanajy: I enjoyed when we dressed up as different characters from a Midsummer’s Night Dream.

Niyah: I liked that everyone had to have a laugh and how I got to put flowers in people’s faces.

Year 5, St Catherine’s of Siena

Enormous thanks to Mr Minchin for liaising with me to arrange this visit. I hope we can do it all again next year!

Ann Edwards Primary, South Cerney

From Birmingham to Gloucestershire, and back to the blasted heath in Scotland. Ann Edwards Primary is a new school to FINDING THE WILL and we were delighted to be invited in to work with Years 5&6. The children here already knew the basic story of MACBETH but, whilst the characters were familiar, often their motivations were not. We had a lot of fun adding our own ingredients to the Witches’ brew too. Alongside Fillet of a fenny snake, we added a Phoenix’ Feather, a Unicorn’s Horn and, possibly most magical of all, the fart of an ogre!!

On the Menu here was the King’s favourite dish – Sushi. Also Peacock Pie and a centre piece of a Peacock with a burning beak – spectacular! Interesting ambitions too – an RAF Pilot, A Radio Presenter and an Author – I so hope these are achieved.

Thanks go to Mrs Jones in the school office who organised this whole day and gave me such a warm welcome too. I hope it won’t be the last!

Shellingford CE (A) Primary, Oxfordshire

The King's Crown worn by Duncan, Macbeth and Malcolm
The King’s Crown – the object of desire.

The final stop in the March MACBETH marathon was a lovely small school in Oxfordshire, also new to the work of FINDING THE WILL. Shellingford Primary is a village school with around 90 children – i was lucky enough to work with about 60 of them. Classes 3 & 4 (Years 3-6) knew nothing about the story and so were able to discover all the twists and turns together.

Now I know you’re all invested in the ambitions of the fabulous young people I’ve met recently. Here in Shellingford, the most unusual was an Equine Physiotherapist! The King’s Banquet produced some suitably interesting dishes and centre pieces including the traditional Pig’s Head, a less traditional Grilled Crocodile and Poached eggs – not any old eggs mind, just those with an orange yolk.

And for the second time in this Mad March MACBETH marathon, (St Michael’s in Chelmsford was the first), there was a well-thought out response to the Witches’ guidance “none of woman born can harm Macbeth”. Obviously the answer is no one can harm him because we are all born from women………unless you are a seahorse…..! Macbeth had to content himself with the thought that, providing he didn’t come face to face with a seahorse, he would be victorious. Spoiler alert – he didn’t and he wasn’t!

A big thank you to all the staff at this warm and welcoming village school, especially Mrs Ashdown, who organised the whole day with me. I do hope there will be the opportunity in the future to come back!

And Finally…..

Next month, in a much quieter April, I will bring you news of some new faces joining the FINDING THE WILL Family. Until then, have a great Easter break everyone. Try and steer clear of Triceretops steaks and grilled crocodile, I’d just stick to chocolate Peacocks if I were you!


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