Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Easter Shakespeare - London

When venturing into a new environment to lead a project I am always filled with a sense of anticipation, what's the space going to be like, what are the young people going to be like, have I prepared enough material, will they find it too hard, will they find it too easy?

As always, this Easter I was overwhelmed by the focus,talent  and dedication of the young people I am faced with.

Theatresaurus are a brilliant organisation who put the needs of the group first, rather than simply churning out the same material time after time try. Their Easter Courses are, in my opinion, fantastic as they offer a four day Shakespeare course in which the student play lots of games and exercises that help with confidence building, language, physicality, focus, and energy to name a few. We also rehearse a short version of one of Shakespeare’s plays. This year I chose to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a show of work taking place on the Friday at 3pm. 

Putting on a Shakespeare play that makes sense in 4 days is a daunting thought with professional actors. Add into the mix a group of 7-11 year olds it is enough to make you slightly panic. But here goes;

Day 1: I played lots of games, safe in the knowledge that I never play a game without a reason they looked at building confidence, focus, and energy. The group loved these exercise and I knew I would come back to them during the week when people got tired, bored, needed an energy lift. I then spent the afternoon with Freya and Ros getting to grips with the story. At its essence Theatresaurus teaches Shakespeare on its feet from start to finish, the way it was intended. So, for example, we told the story up on our feet with different people entering the middle of the circle to make different characters. This definitely made the young people soak in the story rather than sitting down and trying to explain it. 

Day 2: After a warm up, we read through the play giving out parts and doing some cuts as with only three days to rehearse the play we had to replace some text with narration. The group were outstanding, they worked like professionals following the scripts, taking parts (even when it may not have been the part that they wanted, and annotating the script. We then lets ourselves have a play. After the break we began, making sure we understood what we were saying, why and how we felt. 

The group then went home to learn lines and did an awesome job. 

Day 3: I always like to get a bit of Arts and Crafts in there, we made some poster to decorate the set and invitations to take home. We then started on the hard-stuff, the group worked tirelessly to make sure we had got through the whole play by the end of the day.   The group worked really hard when going through the piece, helping each other out with what their characters were like. Along the way we did lots of exercises looking at character etc that really illuminated their work. As the days past the group really grew, they realised they wanted to produce something they were proud of and if some drifted they started to pull each other together. A true sign of a great ensemble. 

Day 4: Performance Day, the group had gone away and really nailed their lines. As a professional I was so impressed, I think I would have been daunted by this as an actor. We spent the morning having a couple of run through with Ros able to bring a new voice to the room and they got better everytime. The performance, wow, all of a sudden they came to life and really embraced having an audience.
The feedback from both students, teachers, and staff was so great they loved and to hear they had grown in confidence and found a love of Shakespeare I feel our job was done.

Make sure you book for their next courses as I am in no doubt Ros is going to take Theatresaurus from strength to strength and I for one love working with the company!