From ‘The Tempest’ in Mexborough, South Yorkshire to ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in Peterborough, we’ve engendered courage, self-belief and hope in 175 children aged 9-11 over the past couple of weeks.

The Tempest

The Tempest set at Montagu Academy, Mexborough

And all this with the aid of our very own new practitioner Claudia Hope (see what I did there?) who made a difference to 60 of those little lives single-handedly.

Firstly Montagu Academy, Mexborough – what can we say? This was the sixth annual visit to this lovely school in Mexborough and both Richard and I have come to look forward to this week of the year very much indeed – we are always made to feel like part of the Montagu family. From the staffroom banter, the smiley, friendly lunchtime staff and the Chinese Banquet with the teachers on the first night to the Yorkshire grit of the children, pushing themselves well out of their comfort zones, this is always an immensely enjoyable week. At this school, we only ever work with Year 6, so in some scenes, where usually we might have 15 children, we may only have 6 (even 3 on occasions). This means there is nowhere to hide! Every child has to work very hard because everyone has a large part to play. There were some terrific performances of course, some that sent shivers down your spine and some that just oozed courage. Wonderful to watch. Although we only ever get to work with these children once, they have all watched previous Year 6 pupils perform, so it’s lovely to hear them talk about the Shakespeare plays they’ve seen – this year this amounted to ‘Hamlet’, ‘Romeo & Juliet’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. To watch three well loved tragedies, one comedy and be a part of a Shakespearean romance before you leave primary school is not half bad really is it? Thank you to all the staff at Montagu Academy for making us so welcome again – we hope to be returning for a seventh year – though it’ll be back to the tragedy I’m afraid……….

King Alonso The Tempest

HRH King Alonso of Naples

Gonzalo The Tempest

Good Old Gonzalo reflecting at Montagu Academy

The Tempest - Caliban

Stephano the Butler meets Caliban watched by Ariel (x5)

And now on to our most recent Project Week – ‘Romeo & Juliet’ at St Botolph’s C.E Primary, Peterborough. Avid readers of the FTW blog will know we are regular visitors to Peterborough already, working annually at Heritage Park Primary. The very lovely Ms Pickard got to know us there and, a year ago, got in touch with me to see if we could go to St Botolph’s. This is a two form entry school so we had the pleasure of working with four classes in Years 5 & 6. Once again we pushed many of these children well outside their comfort zones. Well, let’s be honest, performing in front of your classmates, your school, your teachers, your headteacher, your mum and dad, is not for everyone, so hats off to all the children for giving it their all. Claudia has worked with us once before filling in for Richard one day but this was her first week long project with us. So, in terms of learning curves, we were all on one – Claudia experiencing the intensity and challenge of the work; the staff getting to know FINDING THE WILL, how we work and what extra support they need to give the children; the children getting to know us and trusting us to make them look and feel amazing and the audience learning that, as good as the performance was, it’s what went on during rehearsals and what goes on now we have left, that is the real legacy. Again we had some cracking individual performances – it will be a long time before I forget Rosaline in the ball scene – gender blind casting at its best! Brilliant for us to hear that there were some real surprises in the show – children, not known for speaking out, some not known for speaking at all. And the buzz and pride in all 120 children at the end was palpable. A wonderful feeling – if only we could bottle it! Thanks to everyone at St Botolph’s but particularly Ms Pickard – fingers crossed for the funding gods as we hope to return with a comedy next year (plans are afoot Ssshhh!!!!!!).

Romeo & Juliet

A picture from a Year 6 pupil at St Botolph’s Primary, Peterborough

So as Ophelia batters our shores (clue there to next year Montagu Academy!) I’ll take my leave of you for another week or so. More in the coming weeks with news of more Project Weeks in new schools in the Spring term.

Till then – adieu, parting is such sweet sorrow!

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