Television: pick of the week
In October 2001, the Shakespeare Schools Drama Festival involved 63 schools putting on performances of Shakespeare's plays at three venues in London.
The half-hour scripts were adaptations by Leon Garfield for the Animated Shakespeare series. This film is a record of the work leading up to the productions at Greenwich Theatre by three south London schools: St Saviour's and St Olave's (Romeo and Juliet), Eaglesfield (Macbeth), Thomas Tallis (Twelfth Night) and Kingsdale (Julius Caesar). Each school made imaginative use of its pupils' talents and resources; they were coached in a one-day workshop by Phillip Gates and Kate Allerston of Dramarama, a drama-in-education company, which helped as they learned stagecraft, speaking and the expression of emotions. This film may not be of much use to students of Shakespeare's plays on the page, but it should be a mine of ideas for drama teachers.
Boo! BBC2 Wednesdays, from June 4, 9.30-9.40am
Where's Boo? Boo is a pear-shaped creature with stripes and a tuneful whistle, who can turn up in a variety of locations in this cheery new animated series for pre-school children. They have to join in finding him, when he is disguised as a dinosaur, hiding behind the till in a cafe or concealed in the Australian bush. With him are his friends Sleeping Bear, Laughing Duck and Growling Tiger. The emphasis is on introducing the audience to new words, sounds, colours and numbers, reinforced by a list at the end of each 10-minute film: educational in the gentlest way, and not over-burdened with plot.
Priestley Shorts BBC2 Tuesday, June 10, 3-4am
These three 20-minute programmes examine JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls from the point of view of a stage designer, an actor and a director, each illuminating a particular aspect of the work. Priestley's best-known play, written in the final year of the Second World War, was set in the early years of the 20th century and reflected his hope that future generations might learn to prevent a repetition of the mistakes of the past. The programmes look at the historical and political background, and consider Priestley's fascination with time, as well as the literary qualities of the play and the business of staging it.
Poems from Other Cultures and Traditions BBC2 Wednesday, June 11, 2-4am
Poetry is flavour of the week on the BBC, with this programme on items from the GCSE anthology, followed by Poetry Backpack (which focuses on Grace Nichols as she revisits Guyana and talks about her work); the following night, a further Poetry Backpack on Blake and Seamus Heaney, plus Poetry for GCSE, looking at the themes of war and passion. Poems from Other Cultures and Traditions offers readings and analysis of work by writers including Sujata Bhatt, Grace Nichols, Tom Leonard and John Agard, who gives a spirited rendering of "Half-caste". All of this should help students who find it hard to get to grips with poetry.
Great Books Weekend Discovery Channel Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8, from 8am
The Discovery Channel strand "Great Books" provides a useful introduction to a variety of literary works; now it is getting a whole weekend to itself. They include Dracula (Saturday, 9-10pm) and Pride and Prejudice (Sunday, 7-8pm). The films include dramatised extracts and scholarly commentaries, mainly (but not entirely) by American academics.