St Bartholomew’s Academy, Coventry

They did it! And it was a triumph! Approximately 190 children (give or take a few absentees on the day) aged between 7 and 11 performed their version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on Friday to their parents and grandparents after just three days of rehearsal. Here at FTW HQ we are chuffed to bits with them.

St-Barts-triumph-in-fairylandThe school, St Bartholomew’s Academy, has become a ‘regular’ of ours as this was our third annual visit. Therefore the children in Year 6 are heading off to secondary school in September armed with a knowledge of ‘Macbeth’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Dream’ and a refreshing view that Shakespeare is not ‘boring’ but ‘wicked!’.I’ll be honest with you, in the past, we’ve sometimes had a bit of trouble casting 10 year old boys as fairies so there was a certain amount of trepidation at the start of the week. After all with eight groups of between 15 and 30 children , there was no getting away from the fact that some boys would have to be part of Oberon and Titania’s gangs……….oh and boys, if you’re not playing a fairy you’ll probably be a lover…..ouch! But HAPPILY here at St Bart’s there was no problem.

Mischievous goblins, incompetent imps and even love struck puppy eyed young men became de rigueur! As for being a donkey and falling in love with a fairy, they were queuing up! Talking of which, I’d like to make particular mention of one of our Bottoms (if you see what I mean). This young man had a natural enthusiasm and desire to perform but, due to many factors, found it mentally (and sometimes even physically) difficult to perform when it came to the crunch. With encouragement, positive self-talk and acknowledgment that what he was feeling was genuine and not just ‘bottling it’, he overcame his fears, got up on stage and was a triumph! Such courage. He said the next time he gets nervous and tearful he will say to himself ‘I can do this’, and I really hope he does because he’s proved that he can.

And once again we proved that FINDING THE WILL is about raising confidence and self-esteem in children, not merely Shakespeare (though clearly he helps!).On a lighter note here are some of the top mispronunciations (misunderstandings maybe) of words during the week:“Noodle Theseus” (Noble Theseus); “I’m a sprout.” (A sprite!); and perhaps our favourite, “Knobble Lasagne” (Noble Lysander – of course!) Looking back at notes on our previous two visits to St Bart’s, it is clear that this year there was a marked change. The children were happier, calmer and responding well to strict boundaries on behaviour. The staff, so welcoming to us, also seemed to have more of a spring in their step. The whole atmosphere in the school wFinding the will - Shakespeare Workshop for schools as positive with a sense that now, for these children, there is aspiration and hope. It’s worth mentioning that the ex head of this school, Rachel Medley, began this turn around before she moved to Bayards Hill Primary in Oxford, where a similar road is being trod. If St Bart’s is anything to go by, then it’s a road well worth treading. Thank you Sarah Rayson, all the staff and most importantly our 190 actors for a lovely week. Fingers crossed the Funding Gods grant us the privilege to work with you again next year. Scene of Triumph! St Bartholomew’s Academy, Coventry.


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