In a few words….
The Primary Shakespeare Company sends theatre practitioners into primary schools across London. All our practitioners work professionally within the theatre world, but more importantly have worked extensively in schools and colleges alongside teachers. Each year we take a Shakespeare Play and both investigate and perform it. At first, pupils and teachers watch a professional performance of the play, to familiarise them with the story and to provide a bench-mark for standards of performance. Then, the practitioner leads the children in a workshop that investigates the play and explores the work of Shakespeare. The play is broken down into sections and each school in the borough is allocated a different segment. After this, during a series of rehearsals, the children will work with the director on their section of the play and prepare it for performance. Finally, they will come together with the other schools from their borough to create a festival during which the play is re-assembled, with each school performing their part of the whole play. We talk about this project as a stealth writing project, because although there is a strong performance element- we are dedicated to increasing engagement in the classroom. The drama element feeds into work done by teachers during their Literacy/ Maths/Science/Art and DT lessons and vice- versa.
"I could see straight away how it was going to work with my class."
Melissa Franklin, year 5 teacher
OUR LADY OF DOLOURS
The term before the project begins, teachers are given an inset alongside practitioners. The inset covers the interactive storytelling workshop, planning other subjects using the play and the use of drama in literacy. They are able to go back to their class with an experiential knowledge of the drama workshop, a toolkit of drama activities and sets of literacy plans. A class of year 5 or 6 children also participates in the inset drama workshop, enabling the teacher to see first hand how the children will respond.
"It was one of the best instances of immersive theatre I’ve seen in ages."
MICHAEL COVENEY, Whatsonstage.com
To kick off, each class involved in the project is given the opportunity to see a performance of the play. This is a fantastic way to introduce the children to the story. For the past few years, acclaimed storyteller Xanthe Gresham has created and performed the shows, together with musicians. The show tours a selection of the schools that act as hosts to other participating schools in their borough.
"They loved being included in the storytelling and it helped them view themselves as active performers, not just passive receivers of the story."
Emily Clifford, Year 5 teacher
ORION Primary School
The first session the children have with their director is the workshop. This is designed to re-tell the story interactively. The director takes them through the play using improvisation, games and role play. The session acts as a get to know you, but also introduces theatre techniques essential to the rehearsal process. The children leave the workshop with a thorough understanding of the play, characters and plot, and begin to understand how the rehearsal process will develop.
"The children absolutely loved the sessions, they were always fully engaged."
Laura Supperstone Year 4 teacher GOLDBEATERS
During the five rehearsals the director will explore different theatre techniques with the children. We try to work with as much movement, music and physicality as possible, while still giving time to text work. Each session lasts from two to three hours, with the class being treated as a professional theatre company. Each school is given a budget for props and costume.
"Before you came, everyone thought that I was really quiet, but now they don’t and I didn’t think I was good at acting, but I don’t think that anymore."
Year 5 pupil
Finally, everyone comes back together for the festival. Usually the festival consists of between five and eight schools. We use either a theatre, or a secondary school with good theatre facilities for the performance. In many cases this means the children get to participate in an event at the secondary school they will be moving on to. Each class gets a technical rehearsal for lighting and sound. The scenes are linked together by a professional actor – and everyone finally gets to enjoy the work! Before the show we display some of the written/ art work that has been created.