Teaching Shakespeare

Early this year I decided to take a group of children down to Stratford to see Shakespeare’s birthplace and catch a RSC performance (preferably MacBeth).  Today I had to admit defeat and abandon the idea.  The dates tickets were available for the theatre, we couldn’t get accommodation; the dates we could book accomodation, we couldn’t hire a coach; the dates we could hire a coach, we couldn’t get tickets and so on.  A very frustrating exercise and I hadn’t even thought about Risk Assessment forms (it’s amazing the amount of ways children could harm themselves on a coach).  It’s a real pity the plans have fallen through as the pupils were very excited about it all. 

The idea stemmed from their enthusiasm for Shakespeare.  Teenagers raving about the Bard.  Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?  But we’re two plays down and they want more!  We began by studying Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet as a media text, exploring how  Luhrmann overcame the barriers to modern audiences and created a successful modernisation of the play. By the end of the unit the class had explored Luhrmann’s use of genre, mise-en-scene (still not sure how to use that in a sentence though!), cultural codes and more.  The Gas Station Scene, in particular, provided lots of material.  It was all very exciting!

And now we are studying MacBeth – my personal favourite.  When we finished reading the play I asked the kids to form groups of any size and do anything they wanted with any scene, act or speech from the play.  The only stipulation was that the finished product had to be presented to the class.  The results include a five minute updated version of the entire play (MacBeth as champion boxer), some photographic stills of key scenes, a set design and a translation of a major speech into teen talk (a la Vicky Pollard).  Superb.

Stratford’s not going to happen this year.  As a consolation I have organised a trip closer to home for next month: Cawdor Castle.  The MacBeth links are tenuous but they are there! 

A wee thank you to the Highland Year of Culture for the help with funding.  🙂

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