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