“The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance” so says Prospero in Act 5 Scene 1 of ‘The Tempest’ – or, in the case of Collingbourne Primary, Wiltshire last week, so says a 6 year old from Hedgehog Class. We were invited back to Collingbourne for a second year to work with the whole school again on another Shakespeare classic – ‘Macbeth‘ being a triumph last year – and it was another memorable week for all sorts of reasons!

Collingbourne Primary - pop up theatre in the village hall.Tempest set.

Collingbourne Primary – pop up theatre in the village hall. Tempest set.

Collingbourne Ducis is a small village in Wiltshire near to Tidworth and Salisbury Plain. The primary school, which averages about 100 pupils, is warm and welcoming with dedicated and skilful members of staff led by a very accomplished head teacher, Mr Crossman, Leadership is much in the news at the moment and, in my humble opinion, lessons could be learned from Mr Crossman. He leads by example (at the school gate at the beginning and end of every day greeting the children whatever the weather), bringing his staff along with him with messages of encouragement and praise on the staff noticeboard and, seemingly, remaining calm and unflappable in the most stressful of situations. Come on, 24 hours notice for an OFSTED inspection in any week, never mind Shakespeare Week, would send many a head teacher into a spin! Clearly Mr Crossman is a rarer specimen!

So with the spectre of the OFSTED inspector looming large in the background for two days (no offence meant, she seemed extremely pleasant), Richard and I continued doing our thing – getting the very best out of 104 actors aged 4-11. Fox Class is Reception/Year 1 and cuter Fox Cubs you’d be hard pushed to find! But, cute factor aside, these little foxes gave their very best from speaking some original Shakespeare text to wiggling their bottoms to Sucu Sucu! They were more than ably assisted by a phenomenal Kingfisher (Year 5/6 class) demonstrating a clear speaking voice and maturity beyond his years and a Year 3/4 Otter whose caring nature was a great support. The Kingfishers and The Otters had their own scenes to concentrate on too of course, nothing too onerous, just the opening and closing scenes and the actual tempest and shipwreck itself…..piece of cake really! And then the Hedgehogs (Years 1/2) wanting to break free with Caliban and getting to the very heart of the play with the message of forgiveness “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.”  Very apposite right now and, sadly, just as accurate as 400 years ago. Our natural tendency is still to get revenge rather than to forgive it seems.

Tempest set

Richard puts finishing touches to the backdrop – Collingbourne Primary

Thanks to the unexpected turn of events out of everyone’s control, time was even shorter to rehearse our actors. In fact, since the stage was only erected on Thursday night, they only rehearsed once on the actual stage before the one and only performance. The backdrop was created in a spare ten minutes by Richard and Mrs Stevens (Hedgehog Class). Meanwhile Mrs Malley (Fox Class) was dispatched to buy emergency batteries for the CD player because the tempestuous weather (very apt) meant the power kept cutting out! It may have been the relief of the end of the OFSTED visit or simply the calm leadership but nobody panicked when the lights went out over lunchtime for the seventh time. It’s all in a week’s work at Collingbourne!

The Tempest – Prospero’s idyllic island.

So once again “our revels now are ended.”  We send huge thanks to Mr Crossman, all the staff and children at Collingbourne Primary for a cracking week’s work against all the odds! You did it and you were amazing! We are always astounded by what our actors achieve but last week was indeed ‘A rarer action’! We hope the Funding Gods smile upon you because we would love to come back next year and do it all over again (maybe without the added extras though eh?). Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the result of the OFSTED visit………..sorry, not a clue!



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