Friday, 24 August 2012

Summer speech and drama course

While we were awaiting the results of the Summer speech and drama course I reflected on the work we did, the students we worked with and their achievements .

We worked with students as young at 6 and spent  ten days encouraging them, taking them to the woods and playing Grandmother's footsteps, hiding behind trees, having fun.  We got them to perform their pieces on the race track, infront of a beautiful lake, on a bridge.  So many were inspired by the Olympics, telling stories that reflected the origins of the games in Greece.  They researched, bought in books, challenged themselves and each other and ultimately created some stunning pieces of theatre.

Everytime I teach theses courses, I am stunned by how creative our young people can be.  The joy they find in Shakespeare, in rehearsing, discovering and performing is beautiful.

Many of our students received their A level results on the same day as they took their exams - an amazing and exciting day full of tears, tensions and achievements. (they all got in to their chosen Uni)

Our results came out this week and they were wonderful,  everyone gained merit or above with a few getting almost 100%. Whatever marks they got, I know the ultimate gift has been new friendships forged, a boost in confidence and the gift of laughter.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Speech and Drama exams

Last Thursday my students took their Speech and Drama exams.  Most of them have been working with me towards a grade for the last year.

We had a real mixture as ever this year.  Some are very keen drama students and others have no interest in drama at school but continue to take their grades with me year after year.  It is wonderful to see this latter group grow in confidence and ability.  

The different scripts we used this year were
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night's dream
Spur of the Moment by Anya Reiss
ALice by Laura Wade
Tartuffe by Moliere
My Very Own Story by Alan Ayckbourn
Rukus in the Garden by David Farr
Two Weeks with the Queen by Mary Morris

One group devised and scripted two pieces of theatre - they had to give the examiner the script and perform it in a polished and confident way

We also had 3 students taking Communication Skills - in these grades they had to persuade the examiner to do something (support a charity, go on a trip etc) They have to listen to an article and summarise it back to the examiner.They also have to do a presentation on something of interest to them.   As they go up the grades they have to present a CV and involves interview techniques.  What an amazing way to develop life skills, and in this time when jobs are not as easy to get - what a fabulous step ahead.

Next year we are going to include some other performance skills - stage fighting and magic are two we have already been asked to work on.

The results this year were: Almost all distinctions or merits, so well done to everyone! 

If you want any more information about any of the above feel free to contact me.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Theatresaurus in the Midlands

Shakespeare?  What is there to like really?  Five years of having his plays rammed down my throat in English lessons certainly didn’t inspire me, listening to teenage girls reading disinterestedly from a book we didn’t really understand, our English teacher clearly frustrated by our distinct lack of interest.

That was almost 30 years ago and I suspect the experience of many school pupils is still very similar as Shakespeare is still studied as part of the English Literature GCSE.   Shakespeare doesn’t really come to life until you see it performed, or even better, you perform it yourself.

Two years ago I was scratching around for activities to fill the long summer holidays.  An old friend, Ros, suggested my then 13 year old daughter join her Theatresaurus drama course during the summer holidays, whilst I took a few days to explore the City of Wells in Somerset where she and her family now live.  The course included a trip to Stratford-on-Avon to see A Comedy Of Errors and every child on the course was taken along, whether they were 6 or 16 years of age.  It was a good production, and as I watched these children drink it in, finally I started to get it.  The words made more sense when they were accompanied by actions, with expression in the voice.

Steph absolutely loved the course and, like the rest of the group, came away with a distinction in the Trinity Guildhall exam.  Ros and her team’s methods of teaching had helped the children not only to maximise their skills, but to bond as a group, work together co-operatively, produce an excellent piece of work and, through this, become friends.  Having enjoyed the course so much, she has been back again and again to learn more about drama.  I doubt she’ll ever tread the boards professionally, but her confidence and understanding have improved tremendously.

Of course, even when you are visiting a friend, it’s a bit of a trek to Somerset for a holiday activity, so the idea of bringing Theatresaurus courses to the East Midlands was eventually born.  I hope that young people in Nottingham and Derby will take the opportunity to learn about Shakespeare in an interactive way that brings the text alive and helps them to understand it so they embrace this significant part of their education when it arrives.

Theatresaurus Shakespeare Summer Workshop
Friesland School Performing Arts Centre
Monday 30 July to Friday 3 August, 9.00am to 2.30pm

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Something to do in the holidays? Part 2

Anthony and George finished their AS exams and were hanging around with very little to do.  They were around when I was teaching (George is my son)and started to express an interest.  Neither of them had done any drama for years and had never done a drama grade.  It started as a bit of a joke but when I gave them the Jerusalem duologue they were caught. It was wonderful to see them learning their lines, spending hours researching the play, reading around it and trying out different ways of portraying their character.

Hamlet was more of a challenge -  Neither of them had spent any time working on verse as an actor.  But I was amazed at how excited and fascinated they became by the exploration process.

We had many many laughs learning about Improvisation - another new experience for them.  Learning about Freeze Frame, Cross Cutting,  and flash backs - all part of the Improvisation process.

The grade 7 exam requires you to learn two contrasting Duologues (Anthony and George did Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (from Ginger's entrance)and Hamlet (Act 1 Sc 2 from Horatio's entrance) By William Shakespeare. 
You are also given an improvisation stimulus 15 minutes before your exam and you have to come up with a performance.  (they were given a taxi receipt) 

I am really delighted that both boys got a distinction!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Something to do in the holidays?

At first it was just a sporadic suggestion between two mates. “Why don’t we do speech and drama? It’ll be a laugh.” However this quickly turned into a reality and within 10 days George Johnson and I sat our grade 7 exam. Personally as an English A level student, I was already familiar with the works of Shakespeare, but only through the analysis of his written work. However speech and drama offered me the opportunity to appreciate his work in performance. This heightened my understanding of the text, as I was taught how to truly capture the emotion he wished to convey through his words.

I believe the learning process augmented our confidence as we had to perform our duologues for an examiner, having had no prior acting experience.. In particular, becoming accustomed to improvisation truly forced us to go out of our own comfort zones.

Finally, although the process demanded much of us, it prevailed to be an exhilarating experience. It permitted us to truly appreciate the requirements of tackling an acting role, something I knew very little about beforehand.

But enough about us…

Rosalind Johnson and Louise Merrifield are fantastic teachers (at least that’s what they told me to include in this). Under their guidance we quickly got to grips with the requirements of our duologues and the essential performing techniques required to really bring the pieces alive.

But if that doesn’t concoct an image enticing enough, or provoke your mouth to drool then read my money-back guarantee below:

If your child happens to be part of the 95% of society whose poor pronunciation has manifested to the point where they forget to pronounce their t’s : then send them here and they will be rescued.

Anthony Fellows

Monday, 23 April 2012

Looking Back on the Easter Shakespeare Course

60 young budding actors met during the Easter holidays full of expectation and nerves at the prospect of putting on four abridged Shakespeare plays in just four short days. The students had come from all over the UK and abroad to take part in a Theatresaurus workshop, designed to take a fresh look at the whole experience that can come from really ‘living’ a play.  The experience was intense, focused and loads of fun. 
The post performance response from both parents and children was effusive. The parent of 7 year old Alexei who performed in Macbeth said 'we were extremely impressed by the performance on Friday and the approach ….of not dumbing down the text, even for the youngest children. You have enhanced his culture''.

As the founder of Theatresaurus I have a long held belief that Shakespeare has to be active especially for those coming to it for the first time.  It makes it come alive in kids’ minds and brings out their passion and enthusiasm for the writing.

I started running these four day Shakespeare workshops after my son sent me a text from school one lunchtime saying how boring Shakespeare was.  I was running workshop sessions for the Shakespeare Schools Festival when I received the text.  As you can imagine I was furious and hugely disappointed as my children have been bought up on a diet of Shakespeare and having seen many productions had up until then had a positive experience of his plays.  For a lesson to have had this effect was pretty devastating.  It made me determined to get to as many students as possible and encourage a love and understanding of the Bard and indeed other text'.

The secret of the magic of Theatresaurus is the practical nature of the work. We use improvisation, techniques and relevant themed games  to help develop an understanding and enjoyment of the text so that the students have a visual picture of the story they are telling which give them confidence. We do not shy away from the text but embrace it.  You  do not need to understand every word of Shakespeare in order to enjoy him, it is the essence of his work we are trying to teach.  The text seems to creep up on the students and before they know it they are reciting huge chunks with confidence and often piercing clarity.  All the directors come from a professional theatre background and bring a strong sense of this to their work.  The aim of Theatreasuarus is to roll these workshops out around the country, using our own particular style and active approach to the text to ignite a passion in kids that they can’t get simply from reading.

We work in all areas of theatre, not just Shakespeare. Our next course is the 10 day Speech and Drama workshop in the summer that will run at Millfield School.  We also run a weekly drama club .
All details can be found on our website

Friday, 20 April 2012

Macbeth in four days!


On the first day of the Shakespeare course Ros and Ian introduced us all to each other and told us that the Shakespearian play we would be doing was Macbeth. I already knew quite a few people because I go to the Theatresaurus drama club every Tuesday with them. It was great fun to go around in turns and read out lines of the script so Ros and Ian could choose who would play which character. I was chosen to play Lady Macbeth who is one of the main characters and is the one who convinces Macbeth to kill all those people. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember all my lines because I don’t have the best memory and there were a lot of lines, but all my friends (old and new) gave me lots of encouragement and went over my lines with me. Ros and Ian were also very encouraging.

On the fourth day which was the day we would be doing the performance I was really nervous, everyone else seemed quiet calm and relaxed and told me not to worry. As soon as I saw all the people who were in the first scene come back stage with huge grins on their faces, I was reassured and went on to do my first scene. Although it was nerve wracking I was full of adrenaline and finished the play without any problems.

I did the Easter course last year also and although I didn’t have a main part I still enjoyed it very much. I think I have benefited from this experience by learning how to memorize huge parts of speech in a short time as well as learning how to control my nerves, so hopefully in the next play that I do I can have another speaking part. I LOVE Theatresaurus and recommend it to people of all ages who like acting or for people who would just like to make some new friends!

Scout Whitaker

Thank you Ros, Neil and Ian for another great week of drama. Every time Scout attends a drama course with you she comes away from it more confident and quietly determined to do better next time. She has developed a real love of Shakespeare which I am sure comes with acting it out rather than just reading or writing about it. She had a wonderful time this week and both Antony and I were so impressed by the performance that all the children gave in putting on such a polished production of Macbeth, an amazing feat in only 4 days.

Melinda Whitaker

Monday, 16 April 2012

Easter Shakespeare through the eyes of a 17 year old

As someone with no experience acting whatsoever, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into doing the Shakespeare course with Theatresaurus. I’m doing A level English Literature and want to do English at University, and have loved reading through some of Shakespeare’s plays in class. However, acting in The Merchant of Venice, I have found out how different actually being in the play is to just reading through the text in class.

After this course, I find myself with a better understanding of The Merchant of Venice; it is much easier to understand when acting it and you can really relate to the characters. Learning the lines of Bassanio was hard, as I haven’t the greatest memory, but I think it’s really helped me appreciate the language and how hard it is for actors to learn lines. I’m quite girly - I’m a ballet dancer and like shopping, so getting into character was really hard, but with the help of Lou, who directed the play, I found myself settling into the role quite nicely. She found everyone costumes, which really helped and paid attention to each individual, making the play the best it could possibly be. I don’t think the end performance would have been the same without her, to be honest!

Everyone on the course seemed to really enjoy it, I know my brother and sister definitely did; they go on pretty much all the courses Theatresaurus have on offer and come back raving about how great they are. Both me and me sister started reading the full version of the play (we only did 30 minutes) as soon as we got home and it’s funny just reading the lines. I can now imagine my brother, Ted, (Shylock) counting his ducats, and my little sister, Rosa, (Portia) delivering the famous speech “The quality of mercy is not strained.”

I hope I can go on more of the courses as I’ve found it a great help to my reading and could be a definite talking point in a university interview. Thanks to Ros and Lou for making my week in Somerset brilliant!    

Friday, 13 April 2012

Working with young children on Shakespeare

We had a wonderful week last week working on Shakespeare with young people.  Katy one of our directors writes  about her experience.

Children Say the most Shakespearean things! 

On Monday night I set off in anticipation to Wells, Somerset. Armed with my copy of Macbeth and copious drama exercise notes I was conscious that at 10 am on Tuesday morning I was to be greeted by 11 6-10 year olds (10 boys and 1 girl). Welcomed in the Johnson household I opted for an early night and a read over my notes.

On Tuesday morning I awoke and was eager to get started. In pleasant contrast to London the venue was a stones throw from the house and we arrived bright and early to greet our eager participants. As an array of young boys entered, noisy, excitable and talkative I felt a pang of nerves. This was short-lived when I met my excellent assistant Becci, smily, energetic, and looking like nothing would dampen her spirits I was excited about the next four days.

The next three days was to include drama exercises that helped explore the story of Macbeth. What interest do a bunch of kids have in Macbeth I hear you say. Well, a lot it turns out. Having not taught Shakespeare to children that young before I was apprehensive that I would be able to keep them engaged for 6 hours a day but they shocked me from the start with many of them coming in with books, knowing the whole story, being regular theatrgoers, and wanting to sit down and read the script.

Over the three days we explored amongst other things language and understanding what was being said, physical theatre, rhythm, understanding the story, and delivery. They all embraced the work that was set for them and with regular playground breaks penciled in came up with their unique interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The course finished with a performance on the Friday afternoon of both the older and younger group. We came up with a 30 minute version of Macbeth. Each day the group came back having learnt their lines, and there is something definitely remarkable about hearing an 8 year old recite the dagger soliloquy. I am always a strong believer that you can learn something from everybody and I think this is definitely true as an 8 year old goes on instinct as opposed to an in-depth analysis of the text.

This course has shown me that Shakespeare is accessible to all. At the beginning of the week one boy said 'I hate Shakespeare' and I told him I reckoned I could change his mind. He came up to me at the end of the week and said 'You know what Katy, you have changed my mind'. Job done. If that does show us the importance of young people learning creatively then I don't know what will. Congratulations 'Theatresauras' and I will hope to see you in the summer.

Katy Weir

If you would like details of any of our course please contact me.

Monday, 26 March 2012

If you don't get in, get over it!

I went back to the school in London where I studied to become a drama teacher a few days ago.  I sat and listened to the Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama give a lecture on 'How to get into drama school'.  It was extremely interesting and also confirmed a great deal of my own views and the things I teach my own students.

          The main elements were as follows: 

Don't lie on your UCAS form 
Make sure you read the whole play 
Look towards the auditioner when you do your speech 
Try not to move around too much 
Don't bring props 
Read the broadsheets 
Do unusual things with your time
Wear casual easy to work in clothes
The Head of Acting ended with these two points which were really important, 
We don't look at your UCAS form until at least the second interview - usually the third

and ..............if you don't get in GET OVER IT

Now this got me thinking - I know potential actors need to get used to rejection, but some of these kids who are auditioning are 17/18, they are young and vunerable  and we need to nurture them and not destroy them or their dreams.  

People want to be actors for all sorts of different reasons - often to be famous - a huge proportion of young people give this reason; in a world where celebrity is celebrated and pasted all over the newspapers - it is not surprising. Others want to be actors because "I can get paid for playing', or because it is a fundamental need within them. In these last two cases fame will not be the driving force. 

However, we can encourage them to find out about all the different aspects of stage and screen - acting is only one job.   

Stage Management is an underrated job - but it can be one of the most exciting jobs in theatre - once the show is on you are in charge! The technical jobs in theatre of costume, set design, sound, make up and lighting are as important to the overall look, sound and feel of a production as any other part. 

I suggest when we are teaching our students - everyone is celebrated, whatever role they take in the creation of theatre

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Best way to learn Shakespeare is to DO it!


believe that the best way to learn Shakespeare is to DO Shakespeare. We are all  experts at 'playing', so if a child is given a role to play, they use their imagination, inventiveness and their natural playfulness to bring the character to life - helping them to develop greater self esteem and confidence along the way.

I run courses and workshops using practical techinques to bring Shakespeare's work to life.  Having spent hours sitting trying to read Shakespeare as a youngster, being bored to tears by it and never getting it - I feel strongly that we shouldn't let this happen to our children

My oldest son was 13 when he phoned me while I was working on a project inspiring kids and working practically on Merchant of Venice.  His message said 'Isn't Merchant of Venice boring' - When I returned home I challenged him and asked him why he thought this was the case.  "We sat and watched some really old video for hours in our English lesson today", he said.  - On further questioning I discovered that the teacher had plonked them in front of the video without a word and expected them to 'get'it. 

So how do we inspire kids to love Shakespeare?  

  • Get them up and doing
  • Say the words out loud
  • Don't spend too long on explaining the meaning - that will come
  • Direct them in scenes
  • Get them doing freeze frames to tell the story
  • Set up imagined situations - The trail of Romeo
  • Take them to see a production - and not a shortened Kidz version - the whole caboodle - start with one of the shorter ones.  Make sure they know the story.  Tell them that they won't understand every word - and that is OK.  Tell them to let the experience flood over them, watch, listen, feel
  • Give them things to look out for when they are watching
  • And they can ask you questions at the interval! 

A pre or post show workshop is useful - the RSC do some wonderful ones for all ages.

Most of all let them know that you love Shakespeare and they will admire your passion.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

What It's Like Being In Theatresaurus

 My name is Aaron, I'm 13 years old and I am a student at Theatresaurus. Going to Theatresaurus every week has made me a much happier person for all kinds of diffrent reasons. I go in with huge exitement every week and know I'll have an amazing time and I'll learn something new by the end of the lesson.

When I first joined Theatresaurus I didn't know anyone and quickly had to learn how to meet new people. Now I've  made great friends with everyone who goes there and can't imagine the thought of not knowing them.

At Theatresaurus when we first arrive, we start with a warm up game that gets us ready for the lesson. Then we'll do a starter activity that will teach us something or will improve our acting techniques. Then we start the main activity. This is the longest activity we do and it can be a few things like for example looking at a script and how the charecters in it behave, maybe even improvise from the script in the characters. The most common thing we do for the main activity is receive a brief, theme, sentence or situation and then make an improvisation from it in groups.

I have always wanted to be an actor and Theatresaurus has prepared me like nothing else has. It has inspired me and taught me principals of acting and techniques that will help me in the future. If any young person loves acting, then I would seriously suggest you join Theatresaurus!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Speech & Drama can help at interviews

I had the experience of going with my first son to an interview for university this week.  He had only applied to one place - he said it was the only  place that did exactly what he wanted!  So huge pressure and huge competition on all of us but particularly him.  When we drove to the university, I could feel his nerves; he was pale and quiet and felt sick.  So it made me think how can Speech and Drama help with interview nerves?

Here are my five top tips:

1  Relaxation.  Part and parcel of Speech and Drama is relaxation.  We teach our students about the voice and how it works.  Part of this is relaxing and learning to breath deeply.  This is a brilliant tool for calming nerves.  Learning to relax, having it as something which you can switch on when needed is an invaluable tool

2. Feeling comfortable speaking with an adult in a one to one environment.  We are rarely in this type of formal situation as young people.  Our work is often in groups and we are usually tested by written test. In any speech and drama exam we teach children how to answer questions, even answering them in character and they learn how to answer fully and with confidence. 

3. Using our imagination to understand how others feel and how we come across.  Often, students who are shy or slightly unconfident will find working on speeches and 'becoming' someone else helps them to understand what reactions to different behaviors can be.   They can learn how to LOOK confident through pretending to be someone else.

4. Part of the Speech and Drama exam is a discussion with the examiner.  We can prepare for this by looking at the subject and reading around it, having mock discussions and practising for the unknown.  This simulates an interview in a safe and reassuring environment.

5. Improvisation. In the later grades young people as asked to improvise with only a few minutes preparation time.  They learn to think on their feet, organise their thoughts and take risks. Some of these improvisations can be in groups and again if they go to any places which ask for group interviews or workshops this preparation will be invaluable to them. 

Take  the plunge - email me for recomendations....

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


My friend Violetta Gyra has developed a play that takes place inside 4 cars and takes a real roadtrip on the streets of Athens. Here is what she says about it:

ROADTRIP is a play that takes place inside 4 cars and takes a real roadtrip on the streets of Athens. 
Four different stories that bring us closer.

With vehicle, a real car, an elliptical space-time, familiar to all of us, and driven by our common anxiety about tomorrow!
In ROADTRIP we transform a simple car into a moving stage.

Put your seat belts on! Off we go!
Everything takes place on the streets. On the road. I run, you run, we run. And while everyone chooses his own path - his own trip- we all end up, by momentum to go through the same “trip”. Happiness, money, success, recognition. And our relationships? Do I have what you want? Do you have what I need? And if we both want it....can we make it? We are all on the run, constantly, our lonileness, our insanity.
We coexist, we are searching...we desire! Can we manage to move, to grow in parallel worlds?

ROADTRIP's pilot version was presented @ kinitiras studio ( this past June during the in progress festival.

We are about to begin our next “trip” : follow our path... stay in touch and become
our next audience!
Impressed by this idea I have taken it and developed it into a workshop for young people.  Here is my plan.

Warm up - play a game like Penguins (contact me if you want the details)

Split into groups of 4 or 5 and place chairs in two rows like a mini car. Ask the group to choose a driver and then start to improvise.

1. You dont know each other or why you are all in the car together you have 4 minutes to get to know each other and to create a story without discussing it first. Repeat this after 4 minutes.

Have a 2 minute chat in the group about what might change and spend 15 minutes working this through.

2. Add an obstacle for example having to stop at a petrol station where something happens.

3. Add another - meeting up with one of the other groups in their car, having an argument and swapping cars. Why did you have to swap and what happens?

Rehearse and show the rest of the workshop what you have done.

You could extend this by writing a script about your journey or by inviting audience members to be in the car and finding out what would happen when you change the dynamics.

This is a simple idea which has multiple uses so thanks to Violetta for her inspiration.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Why be a tree?

One of the biggest jokes for any stand up routine on doing drama at school or university is being asked to be a tree.

This week I went to the Hockney exhibition which made me consider being asked to be a tree in drama as a child. Most of us made the same shape as that of the yoga position. Some people are very good at it as I remember from a beach in Devon where my dog peed on a woman in a black wet suit who was in the yoga tree pose on the beech. We were very embarrassed when we had stopped laughing but she had a great sense of humour and simply shrugged it off thank goodness.

For many of us though - and all jokes aside - drama has moved on. Looking at Hockney, his exhibition is all about changes in seasons and I stopped to consider how this could be used as a stimulus for drama sessions. Still images are a wonderful way into drama.

We can use ideas of change with students to look at their own lives. Ask them how they would show family life, creating still images through drama and asking them to portray relationships and change. We can incorporate this into working with texts as well.

For more stylised work we could look at how pictures can be represented as a 3d image in a workshop. Perhaps ask the group to choose 5 pictures as individuals or together and then ask them to represent them and move from one to the other using space, levels and movement. You could add sound to give a sense of movement and flow and to add another sensory level to creating the pictures.

This could also be used as part of devising a scene - it may have a different perspective and theme but could be about change and growth and therefore relate to the themes Hockney was exploring in his paintings.

So we may ask children to be trees but we can do so much more than that.........

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Holidays with drama

I’ve been going to the Theatresaurus summer courses for two years now – as long as it has been running. On my first visit, I was surprised how quickly I made friends with everyone there, even the children quite a few years younger than me!

On our first day, we did ice-breakers. Games that all of a sudden made us become friends, work as a team, and find out a little bit about each other, without us even knowing it. We played games for the first half of the day, and then we got to ‘work’. I put this in inverted commas for it didn’t feel like work, it still felt like a game, devising an improvisation from three words (such as Key, Police and Cheese Sandwich – and it was actually quite good!).

The next day we did even more games, to get us to start exercising our vocal chords, making sure we were using intonation, projecting our voices, hand gestures, body language etc. We also started thinking about what type of examination we would do; Single: single Shakespeare, single modern, Duo: duo Shakespeare, duo scripted, duo devised (Where you come up with an improvisation from a stimulus) Group: group Shakespeare, group scripted, group devised.
The first  year, I chose to do a duo scripted piece. We passed our Grade 4 (Ros chooses which grade) with a distinction. I was really sad to go as the friends I had made had strengthened over time. Sure, it hadn’t been for that long, however spending so much time together every day for ten days does that kind of thing.

The next year, I was feeling much more confident, because I knew what to expect. Do you know what? It was better. I came back greeting all of my old friends, and the new. I had no qualms at instantly being friends with them this run around– instead of the shy thing in the corner I was the last time!

Spurred on by last year’s success, I opted to do a singular Shakespeare piece. My task at Grade 5 was: To do two Shakespeare monologues from different genres, to be ‘hot seated’ (asked questions in the role of a character). I chose to do Puck’s ‘Thou speakest aright!’ Act 2 scene 1 and Juliet’s ‘The clock struck nine’ Act 2 scene 5. Again I got a distinction.
What is funny is how everyone who did this course did really well, distinctions all round.

Rosa aged 12. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Of Mice and Cheese

Using puppets in drama to tell stories has a long history from Punch and Judy shows through to the wonderful use of puppets at the National theatre in adaptations such as Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Puppetry enables animals, magical creatures and people of a different scale and timeline to come to life and move in ways which may not be possible for actors. They can help children talk about events which otherwise would be too painful or to explore worlds of enchantment and imagination setting them free from constraints of time, space and identity. The imagery of the puppets can also be used as a starting point to create drama as in the 5 uses of a cheese and mouse puppet. 

1.  Pass the puppet around the circle, using one line only each, tell a story, building on what the person before you says.

2.  Pass the puppet around the circle each person telling a story about why the mice are in the cheese, what happened  to them, where are they now and why are they there.

3.  Change the focus - these mice are people - trapped in this small place - why?  In groups get the students to explore why people might be trapped - throw in ideas - Prison, Orphanage, mental institution.  Get students to begin an improvisation of a group of people being trapped.

4.  Physical theatre - using the idea again of being trapped,  ask the students to physically put them selves close together at all sorts of different angles  - they cannot move without another person scrunching up - limit their space - no talking.  Add music, add single words, add text

5. For younger children (from age 6)  Make up a story of the 5 mouse and the cheese- and as you are telling it get the children to act out what you are saying.  They could use some still image.  This could lead on to drawings and they could finish the story in all sort of different ways.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises

The London Olympic theme is taken from the Tempest a play full of real passion and thematic tensions. At Theatresaurus we have run some courses and workshops on the Tempest as it is an amazing ensemble piece for all age ranges and  a fabulous way of talking about issues such as racism and bullying, freedom, control and democracy.

Danny Boyle - the oscar winning director of Slumdog Millionaire - is having a bell at the centre of the stadium inscribed with the quote "be not afeard; the isle is full of noises." IN this scene Caliban is talking to Stefano and Trinculo and telling them not to be afraid of the Island as it is lovely but that they need to get rid of Prospero the benevolent dictator in order to make things really perfect and give them control of the Island.

It seems that Boyle is concentrating on the  love of country rather than the battle against a benevolent dictator as central to the theme of the games. However, he has said that the theme will also be about cleansing a poisoned land (concentrating on the Olympic park being cleansed of industrial pollutants) which echoes Calibans struggles to free his Island.

Caliban is passionate about enjoying his heritage and being able to be proud of the Island he lives on and this is something which our workshops often touch on. What are we proud of in the world, our lives and families and how can we make it better?

One of the other central themes in The Tempest is of course the weather which is another national hobby. There is never a day in Britain which is perfect! Someone will always have some comment or other over it being too hot, cold, muggy,icy,windy etc. The effect of weather in our psyche and on our National mood is an interesting one and something we are famous for around the world.

Caliban is called "this thing of darkness" in the Tempest and the play deals with the inherent racism in this statement.  Teachers often have difficulty in perceiving racism and can even pursuing a colour blind approach seeing not making an issue of children's racial and ethnic heritage as being fair. However, actually talking about the issue is both healthy and is often easier through plays such as the Tempest because it allows for open discussion of the unequal relationship between Prospero and Caliban and the differences in their looks and status. This can lead to discussions as to the effects of racism in the present which are non threatening and interesting.

Using Shakespeare as a vehicle to discuss such important issues also means that misconceptions and stereotypes can be addressed through acting and script work. There is a power in the storytelling of the play which draws in the participants and gets them intrigued in the themes presented to them.

Of course there are further themes to explore in the Tempest such as ageing, reconciliation and loss and each workshop can be scoped so that it meets the needs of the curriculum and brings a creative aspect both to the teaching of Shakespeare in schools and to the teaching of the PHSE curriculum and citizenship.

Lastly, the Tempest is a play of magic and wonder at the world and as Miranda remarks in Act 5 Scene 1

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Choosing a monologue

When you go to an audition or when you are doing an exam choosing the right monologue can be the difference between good and very good.

Here are our top tips for monologues to help with your choice.

1. Dont look in a book of monologues everyone does that and it wont help you to stand out.

2. Use a book shop to browse such as the National Theatre book shop. Look and see if your local bookshop has a good theatre section and if not find one which does. Local theatres in the cities have bookshops as well. Try and find somewhere you feel comfortable looking at the plays and set some time aside to have a good read.

3. Talk to the people at these bookshops about plays with characters you are interested in.

4. Go to the theatre and watch plays and then buy a copy of the play you have seen and see if there is something you can adapt.

5. Try to get something which is in the same age group as you are.

6. Think about what it is you are trying to say in your monologue and work around that as well.

7. Consider your audience. You may choose something different when you are auditioning to when you are doing an exam.

Lastly here are a few ideas:

Female - young adult 

Tess from the Female of the Species (Joanna Murray-Smith) - pg 35,36,37 - can be made into a monolgue. Do contact us if you need help with this.

Angela from Like a Virgin ( Gordon Steel) - You just thought..........

Young girls 

Alice from Alice (Lucy Wade)

Men - young adult

Some great monologues in Jerusalem ( Jez Butterworth)

Herons (Simon Stephens)

Young boys 

My very own story (Alan Ayckbourn)

Please contact us if you want any further help at

Friday, 27 January 2012

Prepare yourself for a speech and drama exam

Preparing for an exam is never easy and often nerve wracking for adults and young people alike. Speech and drama exams have a lot to offer young people in gaining confidence with exams because they are often far more informal and friendly than other exam situations.

Here are our five top tips for those preparing for speech and drama exams.

1. Read the play in total even if you are doing a section.

It may sound silly but really unless you know the play you are studying you will not have the insight into the play or the character you are playing which will you need to do a really good job of selling your performance. the examiner may ask you questions about the play and this will stand you in good stead as you will be aware of how the character develops and have far more knowledge of how they interact with others in the play as well.

2. Understand and work on the theory.

The examiner may well ask you questions about context for the play or staging. You may be asked about style or interpretation of the play and about language and how you would re work a scene. All of this demonstrates a real understanding of your craft and a feel for the play, character and context of what you are doing.

3. Practice hot seating 

The examiner may well ask you questions and you will answer as your character rather than yourself (hot seating). Imagine what pets your character might have and how she or he might act in other situations. Think about how she or he feels about her parents or other people in the play and imagine possible scenarios involving your character. Eat your dinner in character or practice talking to your friends as your character if that helps.

4. Learn your lines 

Knowing your lines inside out means that if you forget something you can improvise because you know what's coming next. It also helps when you are nervous to feel extremely confident that you have really learned your stuff and know what you are doing. I recently went to a public speaking competition and the people who read their speeches were nowhere near as wonderful as those who had learnt them even though that was not necessary.

5. Breathe

The first thing to happen when you get nervous is that your breathing goes out of the window.Anyone who has listened to a nervous speaker knows you can hear them breathing and they breathe more often in shallow fast gasps. Practice your breathing and controlling your breath. This will not only help with nerves but also with getting the emotion and focus of your speech right. A great book to refer to on this is Cecily Berry's, Voice and the Actor.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Greek theatre

Greece is facing massive economic change and upheaval and is still in danger of defaulting on its debt. It is in the news for all the wrong reasons at the moment but in a corner of Greece we are running a summer workshop which will focus on the roots of classical theatre.

Submerged in the culture of the theatre in Greece itself we plan to run our summer school in the mountains outside in the open air which will add a new dimension to our theatre work suing the environment as well. The course will be intensive and immerse participants in a new situation where they work quickly at something possibly for the first time in a stimulating environment surrounded by the culture and people of Greece itself.

Most cities in Greece had a theatre in the heyday between 550 and 220 BC mostly in the open air in bowl shaped auditoriums the most amazing of which is Epidaurus where you can whisper in the middle of the stage (or as it was called the Orchestra) and it will be heard all the way to the back row of stone seats. Some Greek theatres were very big such as Epidaurus with room for 15,000 people and some small.

All the actors were men and boys with dancers and singers making up the chorus. They changed costume in a hut called the Skene and painting the walls of the hut made the first scenery. Plays were written as comedies or tragedies something which continued for many centuries after. the actors wore masks and wigs and shoes with thick soles to make them look taller. Costumes were often padded to make actors look stronger or fatter.

There were awards ceremonies for the best actors and plays and some of the most famous writers became national and international celebrities. Anyone studying the theatre seriously needs to have a grasp of Greek theatre and its influence is still felt today. Greek theatre is the origins of Western theatre as we know it.

We will be working with Antigone Gyra who is Artistic Director of Kinitiras dance spectacle . Antigone has been teaching movement to actors and choreography to dancers at professional dance and theatre schools in Athens since 1993. She grew up with ancient Greek traditions and is innovative and exciting in her way of working. We will also be working with her sister Violetta who is an actress who divides her time between Los Angeles and Athens. She has played roles in theatre, film and television and is a graduate of the Greek National Theatre and a lifetime member of the Actors Studio.

In order to truly appreciate the scale of theatre in Ancient Greece we will arrange visits to Epidaurus and Delphi where we will experiment with theatre in the same arenas that originally staged some of the great Greek tragedies and comedies.

Details on the website at or email