Talking of #ShakespeareForAll, we’ve just enjoyed a hectic couple of days in the rural countryside of East Yorkshire and the urban sprawl of Slough – four workshops, two plays, a hundred and twenty five children aged 9-11 now familiar with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Macbeth’.
However, as Kelly Pollock (Executive Director of Centre of Creative Arts) knows only too well, the work the children did with us is just a springboard to becoming more rounded human beings. Yes, they now have a good grasp of the plays and they are getting stuck into follow up work and projects on potions, dreams, and magic but that’s not all. They are also enjoying finding a voice and wanting to discover more – they are curious.
The first school I visited on Monday was Sledmere Primary, near Driffield, East Yorkshire. This is a warm and friendly rural primary school in the pretty village of Sledmere with, I believe, just 40 children in the whole school. It is part of the Wetwang & Sledmere Federation. There were just 14 children in the interactive ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream Workshop’ all from Years 4, 5 & 6 and consequently absolutely everyone had a part! In fact, following an old theatrical tradition, Duke Theseus and Hippolyta had to double as Oberon and Titania as we had more characters than participants! Now you might think that a tiny school like this would have shy and retiring pupils – don’t you believe it! There were some cracking performances and some great answers to questions – everyone threw themselves into it (good job really as there was nowhere to hide!) and we all had a really fun morning. In the afternoon I moved on to the sister school in Wetwang.
Again I was greeted with a warm welcome – it’s beginning to feel like family! Here I had 20 children to work with on ‘The Dream’ and again absolutely everyone had something to do or say. Frustratingly there were not quite enough characters for everyone to play a role but, nonetheless, all the children contributed magnificently by answering questions and joining in with the various arguments between Titania and Oberon and Hermia and Helena. I hear that, since I left, the children are not scared of the language at all and are hugely enjoying speaking some of the original text with a dramatic flair! What was particularly admirable in both schools was the children’s ability to follow the three strands of this very complicated story in detail. There are many adults (ourselves included at times!) who get very muddled with who is in love with whom at any particular moment! So huge thanks to Mrs Wood for inviting us in for a second year and for this lovely feedback:
“This is the second year of having ‘Finding the Will’ and the expertise in how the workshop is delivered cannot be mirrored as a teacher. This is a unique experience that makes the children and the teachers want to go and see the play on the stage. It is accessible to children who find English difficult or may not have experienced a Shakespeare play. It is memorable.”
Next stop was Castleview Primary in Slough for two interactive ‘Macbeth’ workshops.
Not only did we leave behind the bucolic setting of the East Riding but also the small classes. In fact we gained three times as many children in each workshop and we were only working with Year 6! It was our third visit to this impressive school and I choose the word ‘impressive’ deliberately. Every time we go to this school we are astounded by the vocabulary of the children – they are aged 10 and 11 and use words like “turbulent”; “vigilant” and “overwhelmed.” They also immediately understood and articulated the meaning of “None of woman born can harm Macbeth” – you can count on one hand the amount of times that has happened in FTW’s twelve years of leading ‘Macbeth’ workshops! We’re happy to report though that when it comes to King Duncan’s last supper (not that he knows it’s his last of course), maturity gave way to proper ten year old thinking – the King’s favourite food was waffles of course accompanied by plates and plates of chips! And why not?!
So thanks to Miss Hall for inviting us back for another year at Castleview and thank you to Mr Tamimi for this incredible feedback: “The workshop beautifully captured the intensity and drama of the original Macbeth, whilst making it palatable to our Year 6 audience. The children (and the adults) were hooked by this unique approach to introducing a story; the guided drama was excellent and immersive – with the fantastic and engaging Richard and Jules.” Next stop for us is a new school to us in Tameside, Manchester at the beginning of December. We’ll be leading workshops on ‘TheTempest’ and ‘Macbeth’ there for Years 5 & 6. We are very much looking forward to spreading a little FTW Christmas magic in that neck of the woods for the first time! Meanwhile we are proud to have contributed a little to creating another 125 ‘more complete human beings’ this week and, in so doing, proved once more that #ShakespeareForAll is not just an aspiration but a memorable lesson. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Arts Education is a waste of money!