Merger adds to theatres' strengths

8th September 2006 at 01:00
A year ago, the fear was that TAG, Scotland's teacher-friendly theatre company, would be wounded by the cut in its Scottish Arts Council revenue and its forced marriage with the Citizens' Theatre. Instead, it has become a love match.

TAG is relishing its special role in bringing children into a building that offers the company so much more space and opportunity for exploration.

It may seem inexplicable good fortune to teachers that the company continues to take education so seriously, but it knows that theatre is an essential way we explore the world and our relationships.

It also knows, and can prove to anyone who cares to watch the team work, that the best personal growth and social development happen most naturally and effectively through creative learning.

So, even as the company waits to replace its education officer, following Emily Ballard's departure to Jordanhill to train as an English and drama teacher, it can still offer schools at least six projects.

Its Teachers' Forum is almost over-subscribed. The congenial club offers members free tickets for TAG and Citizens' productions, refreshments before shows and an informal discussion in the bar afterwards. Apart from a relaxed, child-free networking night at the theatre, this also serves as a useful focus group to discuss TAG's future work.

Coming soon is Yellow Moon. Commissioned from the talented David Greig, it tells the story of a boy and girl of school-leaving age who are on the run for murder. Self-harm, family break-ups, runaways, suicide and the cult of celebrity are some of the themes of the play, which is devised to be played by five characters in an open space without special lighting, in other words in a classroom or school hall.

Taking this play into schools is one of the first tasks of Angela Campbell, TAG's acting education officer. She joined the company in the summer after two years with Glasgow's East End Community Arts and is clearly enthused by the "varied, exciting and relevant" work that it does.

Some of it is so popular that it stays in the repertoire. Global Citizens, for example, "just runs and runs", says a TAG spokesman. Aimed at upper primary pupils, it tackles complex aspects of environmental studies - ethical enterprise, the rights of the child, child exploitation and so on - through drama. It collects rave reviews from teachers, and some have felt empowered to work in this style themselves.

Another standard offering is its day workshops for primary and secondary school staff who want to use drama as a teaching method in a non-arts subject area, or English and drama teachers who fancy trying more immersive ways of textual study.

For these, Ms Campbell is joined by drama worker Lulu Black, whose own innovative project this term is Dragonfly, for P1 and nursery pupils.

It sets out to put play, storytelling and acting at the heart of literacy learning and is built on the central principle that a child's words must be scrupulously recognised. The empowering method was pioneered in the United States by Vivian Paley, whom Ms Black worked with during the summer.

She offers eight weeks or more of workshops and, very much in the TAG style, teachers and helpers are trained, engaged and supported in ways that mean the work can continue after the project is finished.

TAG Theatre, tel 0141 429 5561

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