For the beginning of my drama scheme of work on The Tempest, I wanted to create a sense of the sea, a storm and a shipwreck to represent the opening of Shakespeare's play.
The look of wonder on the students' faces when they opened the door to find a dimly lit studio full of stormy sounds and sea-themed props was priceless. It was a complete change from the usual rowdy but enthusiastic beginning of most lessons. They were curious, surprised and instantly engaged by the sense of atmosphere that they would soon be asked to replicate.
Adopting the basics of Japanese Noh theatre, I split the class and tasked them with reproducing the scene I had presented - but using drama rather than the resources I had employed.
The first group had to choreograph a short movement piece, using traverse staging, to represent a ship caught up in a storm. The second group was asked to create a soundscape for the storm using their own voices, some instruments and objects in the room - walls, radiators and bins, for example. The third group had to create a choral piece based on text from Act 1, Scene 1 of the play.
It was fascinating to watch each group behaving secretively as they developed their section. This meant that the final "reveal", when the three groups came together again, was all the more momentous.
I "conducted" the groups so that they began and ended at similar times, often repeating sections of their pieces. It worked beautifully. I filmed the performance so that we could review it afterwards - and so that the students could see the full effect of their efforts.
The end result of this lesson is always excellent. Students love it. It is a simple yet effective task that can be adapted to any theme, and it all starts with a little bit of drama.
Isobel Fuller teaches drama at Lingfield Notre Dame School, Surrey
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