Review - Theatre on tap
Pupils hoping for top marks when tackling drama questions at GCSE or A level are at a huge advantage if they can see that drama staged. And if that staging is professional then so much the better. But it is not always possible for schools to get to such productions.
Now, however, Stage on Screen gives teachers and young people access to performances of classical set plays on DVD and soon for download via YouTube.
"Stage on Screen starts with fully fledged theatre productions, which are filmed during the run," founder Phil Rees explains. "Two versions are created: an unedited wide shot showing the entire production from a single vantage point and an edited 'filmic' version, created by editing footage from five cameras."
The current captured plays are Doctor Faustus, The Duchess of Malfi, Volpone (pictured below) and The School for Scandal - all productions staged at the Greenwich Theatre in London.
But how does filming a drama on stage benefit pupils? For the productions' director Elizabeth Freestone the main aim was to create unfussy interpretations: "It was a case of clarity predominating, creating shows in which both the in situ audience and those seeing the dramas on film would have a clear idea of the world of the plays."
Freestone knows that some key ingredients will be lost to those downloading the edited versions from YouTube. But she says it is a boon for pupils to be able to see actors' faces and gestures in close-up as they speak or react to others' words.
"The Stage on Screen productions feature top actors," says Steve Eaton Evans, head of performing arts at Queen's College Taunton, "and there's enough of the theatrical even in the edited versions to give students a perspective on a play they are reading in class - added to which the DVDs also feature interviews with the director, production and lighting designers."
Another benefit is that, unlike many modern productions of the classics, Stage on Screen productions are rarely cut, putting pupils who see them at a distinct advantage.
Jerome Monahan is a teacher, freelance writer and journalist. He provides Inset and pupil enrichment workshops in schools both nationally and internationally. For more information about Stage on Screen, visit www.stageonscreen.com.