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.