Fiona's method

I work with the children in the same way I do with professional actors. We explore the text, develop the characters, hone acting skills, learn the lines and introduce stage-craft. I expect dedication and commitment and have found that children thrive on the intensity of the experience.

The lessons they learn along the way are many: how to focus and direct their energy, how to be responsible for themselves and others around them, how to work as part of a team for the sake of a happy week and successful production. Of course they learn to love and understand Shakespeare, but it also helps to develop their confidence. It is wonderful to see an introverted child blossom and develop in just a short time, or to see an extrovert learning how to respect and interact with their peers and become a valid team player. It is heartwarming to see friendships form as the children make plans to meet at GREAT SHAKES the following year.

The final stage production is professional in every way. We use lights, music, sound effects, stage effects, full costume. The children are entirely responsible for the final production. We have no one on prompt script to help them out so they learn to rely on each other. The children also learn new skills depending on the specific play we are presenting. Over the last six years we have performed nine of Shakespeare's plays and have incorporated costume design and construction, singing, dancing - modern and historical- and one skill that always proves very popular with our students the art of (safe) stagefighting. Let's face it, a good number of Shakespeare's plays culminate in huge battles.

 

Over the years it has been brought home to me how inclusive this work is for children who may be facing challenges is life. Often I find that children who do not perform to expectations in an educational senario, have huge talent when it comes to self expression, empathy and creativity. There are no barriers when it comes to drama. Children with ADHD learn self discipline and how to channel their energy. Our autistic children learn to order their thoughts and actions whist interacting with others, finding that the repetition of rehearsal brings a feeling of security and belonging. Our dyslexic pupils realise that they are not 'stupid' but that there is always a way to succeed and shine and be proud of themselves. Even physical problems are no barrier when it comes to experiencing the joy of learning, rehearsing and performing. Then there are the children who have none of the above problems but feel that life has little to offer. They may have low expectations of themselves. But I have seen children amaze themselves. Just by working that bit harder and being brave enough to take the leap of faith I have seen children change in front of my eyes into confident excited fulfilled people who are optimistic about themselves, their talent and what they are next going to achieve.