120 actors aged 9-11 learning ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in three days – what could possibly go wrong?
Last week Claudia and I returned to St Botolph’s Primary School in Peterborough. It was FINDING THE WILL’s second visit to this warm and friendly school. After the success of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ last year, our young company from Years 5&6 triumphed in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ much to the delight of us, their teachers, the rest of the school and chiefly themselves. By the end of Friday, all 120 actors had sung, danced and acted their way through the whole of ‘The Dream’ (oh yes, there’s an eclectic mix of music to clap along to in this one!) and left the hall walking taller, more confident, relieved and mentally exhausted (all that focus and listening you see).
As usual we began the week with the interactive workshop and so by the end of Monday all our actors were familiar with the story. Over the course of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we rehearsed eight scenes with them (15 actors in each scene) culminating in the final performances on Friday. We were able to utilise the extraordinary gymnastic talents of the children – well fairies do contortions right? – as well as uncovering some latent acting talent among them which no one, least of all them, knew existed. Some of the most rewarding moments however came from the audience – admittedly it was the name ‘Bottom’ that caused some four and five year olds to rock with laughter but children’s laughter is infectious, and there’s something magical about children making younger children laugh. That’s not to say that many an adult didn’t have a giggle too – come on, a fairy falling in love with a half man, half donkey called Bottom is pretty funny! And if all that mirth wasn’t gratifying enough, we heard on the grapevine that our actors were buzzing in the dining hall over lunch because “we nailed it!” Well, Years 5&6 you certainly did!
Early in this extraordinary week, I had the pleasure to rehearse with a young actor who was the King of the Ad Lib and made me laugh a lot. As Egeus in the penultimate scene, he was forced to accept that his daughter Hermia would be allowed to marry Lysander (the man she truly loves) after all, and indeed she is invited to share the Duke’s wedding day. Egeus’ scripted line was merely ‘What? Oh very well” but what I got was “What? Oh very well. What could possibly go wrong? It’s going to be a challenge though.” Wonderful work! And he was right. The week WAS a challenge, all sorts of things could have gone wrong, but it all came right on the night, nerves were overcome, courage and pride soared and Year 5 were promised another chance to work with us next year. Fingers crossed the Funding Gods agree…………… after all what could possibly go wrong?