Tertiary - Flashdance: drama students take their passion and make it happen

3rd December 2010 at 00:00
A series of arts projects, run as part of Celebrating Fife 2010, has proved to be a hit with the locals

T-mobile's advert filmed in London's Liverpool Street Station is probably the most famous example of a flashmob. But for residents of Fife, the word is likely to make them think of more recent examples, much closer to home, thanks to community and education project 99 . 100.

The title 99 . 100 signifies the large number of stories collected as part of a nine-month initiative. The National Theatre of Scotland got together with Arts and Theatre Trust Fife to run a series of arts projects as part of Celebrating Fife 2010.

Drama students from Adam Smith College and Carnegie College gathered together to rehearse and perform a play. With help from 99 . 100 director Simon Sharkey, the students co-wrote the play, based on stories they collected from thousands of people around Fife.

Dunfermline-based artist and hairdresser Alan Grieve gave clients free haircuts in exchange for stories. An interactive red telephone box, where people answered a ringing telephone and were asked a set of questions about their lives, was taken to various locations around Fife. A set designed as a living room toured Fife with the hairdressing salon. People would come in, make themselves at home and have a one-to-one conversation about their lives with an elderly performer from the University of the Third Age.

"The college students benefited from having a professional theatre company work with them," said Mr Sharkey, "with the same calibre of artists that work at the Edinburgh Festival. They got top-notch National Theatre artists in their own space. We did not differentiate between them and professionals."

Jennie Leight, 19, is doing a Higher National Diploma (HND) in acting and performing at Adam Smith College. She said it was really good working with Carnegie College students and she enjoyed learning about the things that had happened to people in the past, and discovering how society had changed.

"We are also using this as part of our devised piece for the HND, writing up about it afterwards," she said.

Ryan Bowler, 18, is studying for a Higher National Certificate in acting and performance at Carnegie College and also appreciated the chance to work with another college.

"I liked the set-up and it was brilliant looking at people's lives, instead of a play about fake stories," he said. "We also had lots of freedom to play with ideas."

While there was a job to get on with and a deadline to meet, the fact that this was part of the students' college course was not forgotten. "We were aware that they needed to get through their modules, so they could use this," said Mr Sharkey.

"It was not just a case of ticking boxes. They were learning in a live way. They had to do a monologue as part of their course and some of them were planning on using monologues from this.

"We could use this to demonstrate what they could achieve. It was not just learning, but the application of it. They were taking what they had been learning in college into a professional environment."

Students from both colleges, along with pupils from Woodmill High, in Dunfermline, were involved in flashmobs in the town's Kingsgate Shopping Centre. This was part of a live arts event to encourage people to share their stories.

Woodmill High and Glenwood High, in Glenrothes, also had the National Theatre of Scotland working with them.

"We went into drama classes, sharing approaches and techniques, using movement and automatic writing," said Mr Sharkey. "What we did was very different from the curriculum - we worked with what they had and made it more about them. Providing an energised approach towards making theatre and exploring drama, we devised a module around characters and situations."

But it was the work with primary schools that Mr Sharkey was particularly excited about: "Six primary schools were involved and we took Curriculum for Excellence on board.

"A miner had been down in a mine for 100 years. He agreed to come up. They had to give a presentation to him of what had been happening over the last 100 years. It was their decision and their format. One group was concentrating on the Sixties, another on transport and economics."

On a different day over a week in November, each school - mainly P6 and 7 children - acted out going down in a lift, 100 floors down to the miner in the mine. Once below ground, they were allowed to use PowerPoint, drawings, creative writing or newspapers to make a presentation to him.

They worked on it over a four-week period before presenting it at Silverburn Park. "The children really grasped the idea and were gripped by it," said Mr Sharkey. "They had to sign the Official Secrets Act and live with this over a period of time. Teachers really seized on it as an opportunity to make learning relevant. We recorded it and hope to put it on Glow."

As far as the students were concerned, he said: "We expect professionalism at the point of learning, not waiting until they get into the profession. We had a nine-month gestation period and were excited to see what we would give birth to."

Now the project is over, Mr Sharkey feels he is "an honorary Fifer". Nine months in the kingdom have left one lasting impression, he said: "Fife is its people, and what amazing people they are.

"What we achieved with ATT Fife and the groups, schools, individuals and communities we engaged with was, in the words of most of the people who saw the event, `magical'."


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