Bard's Big Brother stars face pupil vote

SHAKESPEAREAN characters make better sense to primary school pupils if they are presented as the moaning housemates from television's Big Brother, an education lecturer has discovered.

Eric Hadley of the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff believes that pupils appreciate the Bard's characters more if they are performed as contestants in the voyeuristic Channel 4 series, or as warring guests on chat shows.

The academic and his trainee teachers have been trying out TV-style versions of the plays in Cardiff primaries. Productions have included a Blind Date-style As You Like It, in which "Bill" Shakespeare steps into Cilla Black's shoes to match up couples, and a Jerry Springer show, The Tempest, in which Prospero and his entourage confront each other to the cheers and boos of a studio audience.

Their latest performance was a Big Brother adaptation of Twelfth Night, in which pupils were invited to vote out the characters, one by one, from Olivia's house.

In a paper published this month, Mr Hadley argues that the social world of children, particularly TV programmes, should be brought into the classroom when discussing Shakespeare. "Children are expert in its language - its catchphrases and homespun wisdom are amongst the voices they play with and practice," he said.

However, the experience can be disturbing for the trainees who take on the role of villains. "The poor student who played Malvolio in the Twelfth Night Big Brother was treated as a "Nasty Nick" figure by pupils," said Mr Hadley.

But pupils seem to appreciate the post-modern nature of the shows. After watching the Blind Date As You Like It, one wrote: "I don't think Phoebe and Silvius will make a good couple. They will probably end up on Jerry Springer."

"Bill Shakespeare's Blind Date" is published in the July volume of "Reading, Literacy and Language".

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