Combat drama problems

7th December 2007 at 00:00

Fight for your right to make the subject appealing to boys and girls. Jo Morrell explains how to get them swinging into action. What is it with boys and drama? You could give them the topic of world peace and they would still be able to include a fight scene.

So, what is the answer? I used to set firm no fighting rules in a performance, but this approach fell apart when exploring themes such as robberies or street fights, which sometimes justify a fight scene. However, pupils have to be able to explain the purpose of a stage punch or a scuffle before I allow it. And it has to be controlled and safe.

In my PGCE year, I was lucky enough to work with a man who was trained in stage combat. Learning the moves and the safety elements has helped me recognise the creative potential of combat.

I now teach a scheme based on the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet that includes a range of stage fighting techniques, from slapping to headbutting a wall. Boys are particularly thrilled, as it legitimises their instinctive love of combat. It also works on the sound educational principle that learning has to encompass pupils' interests if they are to feel motivated and enthused.

All too often in drama and English, we are accused of taking a feminine slant on teaching, focusing on the exploration of emotions and issues. But the use of a characteristically male-dominated approach of combat and fighting can provide a neat segue into the discussion of deeper issues, such as teenage gang violence or gun crime

Jo Morrell is a drama teacher at Fulwood High School and Performing Arts College in Preston


Enrol on a stage combat course in your area or see it taught by someone else. See for listings.

Keep strict health and safety rules. Show pupils how, by slowly modelling the moves with a partner.

Allow the pupils to have a go at the moves in pairs - watch carefully and pick up on any safety breaches.

Combine the moves into a whole-class performance (like a choreographed dance) to show to other year groups or classes. Pupils will love showing off their new skills.

Use the physical work as a platform to discuss deeper, relevant issues, such as torture and terrorism.


Ages 14-16

Book: Living with Lady Macbeth by Rob John, Oxford University Press, pound;6.75. A gem of a play, featuring drama queens and a knife edge audition. Just the ticket for GCSE study and performance.

Resource: Tiny Giants. This Theatre in Education company certainly gets kids to belt up with road safety play Perfect. Book for KS3 PSHE and KS4 drama pupils. Three actors, one curtain and simple props stimulate excellent dramatic evaluations. Visit for more information.

Website Follow links to Pictures and Exhibitions and then Search Archives to find a treasure trove of images. Ideal for discussing interpretation and fabulous for instant "reading the moment".

Ages 16-18

Book: Commedia Plays by Barry Grantham, Nick Hern Books, pound;12.99. Erudite and entertaining, this is the must have sequel to Grantham's bestseller Playing Commedia. Both will have you in historical stitches, slapping sticks in no time.

Resource: www.thecpr. The Centre for Performance Research has vast resources to offer anyone interested in the many faces of performance.

Website: www.frantic hosts a growing bank of Frantic resources including video clips and comprehensive guides. Catch FA's stunning show Stockholm at the Brighton Festival next May and book an inspiring creative learning package to get the theatre blood pumping.

Joc Mack is a creativity Advanced Skills Teacher at Framingham Earl High School, Norfolk. He is also a freelance writer and director.

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