Brave new drama

19th September 1997 at 01:00
Arts education in schools is enshrined in the 5-14 curriculum guidelines, but + even some versatile and skilful teachers confess to feelings of inadequacy at + the idea of teaching "arts". Outside the school gates lurk the arts companies, + starved of money, and well aware that schools have a budget, some of which is + earmarked for arts activities. Inevitably they come together, with such + frequency that the Scottish Arts Council now has a consultative committee + urgently considering exactly how the interface between school and arts + companies should be managed.No doubt the SAC has taken note of Borderline + Theatre Company, which operates out of its base in Ayr, and offers what manager+ Edward Jackson calls "the most complete service to schools to be found in + Scotland". To sample the range of work on offer, I caught up with its + remarkable new programme for primary schools in South Ayrshire, which + introduces Shakespeare to P1-P7.Shakespeare is bedrock to the theatre, but + mention his name to the non-theatre goer and it generally prompts a knee-jerk + reaction, aimed or otherwise. This is reason enough for Louise Brown who, with + her fellow drama worker Amy Macdonald, delivers the Borderline education + programme:"All we set out to do is show that Shakespeare is accessible and fun.+ We introduce some of the language, just a phrase at a time, but our work is + plot-driven, showing that the stories and the people are relevant to young + people of today."Twelve primary schools take the six-week Shakespeare + programme, and each gets a weekly visit from the drama worker, every session + lasting 90 minutes. I was able to see P5 in the second session of The Magical + Island (based on The Tempest) in a school on the outskirts of Ayr, and came + away mightily impressed with the depth of the children's experience, and drama + teaching of the finest quality.The week before, the children had learned the + outline of the story, discovering that it grew out of the brothers' quarrel. + They had painted the voyage to the island, and brothers at odds, and could + remember their names. This week, it was time to meet the people on the island, + and for Louise Brown (with help from a friend) to exercise her considerable + acting and educational skills in a technique known as "teacher in role". "Let + me introduce you to Prospero," she tells the class sitting round her on the gym+ floor. She goes to her shopping bag and, with her back to the class, slowly + and silently ties a simple blue cloak round her shoulders. Erect and stern, + she returns as Prospero, to tell them about his daughter and his slaves, and + offer to teach the class magic. Like Ariel, they "tread the ooze of the salt + deep", feelingly. He turns his helper into a monkey, and a boy into a dog. He + lends his cloak to one of the class, and the borrower finds she too possesses + the magic gifts.Then it is time to meet Caliban. Louise Brown crouches by the + wall bars, slipping on a visor, and taking on a deformed shape, in which + Caliban crabs his way back towards the circle. There is no malevolence, no + threat in his attitude, but the children, in a sunny afternoon in the gym, draw+ back nervously. Caliban, however, is not as bad as he has been painted by + Prospero. "I only scratch people who are rude to me," he tells the class, and + they more than half believe him. They squelch into his muddy cave, are drips + and drops from the roof, joyously try out the impressive echo.I was still + thinking that, when it came to "teacher roles", being a Caliban was a degree or+ two more effective than being a Prospero, when Ariel arrived, in his belled + hat and airy style, and taught them more magic, this time creating invisible + animals.And all the time, there was the other "magic", of the empowered child + and the released imagination. It was drama teaching in the grand manner, and + the only concern I felt was that, after this, Shakespeare's plays could be + something of a disappointment.Borderline Theatre Company, tel: 01292 281010

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now