Lesson: Physical theatre
Ages: 14 and older
Supplied by: Supplied by Olga Dermott-Bond, head of drama at Rugby High School in Warwickshire
1. What is it?
This lesson focuses on the use of physical theatre. It is inspired by the "Night of Madness" of January 6, 1839, in Ireland - the night a brutal storm struck the country.
2. Who is it aimed at?
This lesson is appropriate for key stage 3 pupils of all abilities; a very basic grounding in physical theatre could be useful, but it could also be used as an introduction to physical work.
3. What happens in the lesson?
Ask pupils to recap on the definition of physical theatre and explain that they are going to develop these skills. Then read the description of the calm before the storm: "Nature seemed to be holding its breath. There was something awful in the dark stillness of that winter's day." Split pupils into groups to create one of the following scenes: a harbour full of ships, a gang of children playing games, a forest and a congregation in a church. The scene should begin with noise and movement and then become still and silent. Discuss what techniques worked well.
4. What do you want the lesson to achieve?
The main aim is to demonstrate how to build dramatic tension and suspense. Pupils will develop skills of physical theatre; work as an ensemble to create work; develop their creative and imaginative powers and use skills of analysis and evaluation. Working towards a moment of stillness and silence will also help them to develop discipline and control in performance.
5. How do you know it has been successful?
You can gauge the success of the lesson by the creative responses of the pupils through their practical work, and by their evaluative comments.
6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?
This lesson provides a way for pupils to develop skills of physical theatre in an accessible form. The pupils are able to demonstrate creativity and discipline in practical work. You can build on the lesson with more work focused on the night of the storm, or introduce some text- based work - the storm at the beginning of The Tempest, for example.
7. Give us three top tips
- A warm-up game - either to raise energy levels or encourage concentration at the start of the lesson - can work well.
- You can appoint a director within each group to provide focus.
- You could use some music to "underscore" the pieces of physical theatre that the pupils show.
8. Useful resources
- The Night of the Big Wind by Peter Carr provides an account of the night using original source material.
- Ideas That Work in Drama by Michael Theodorou provides lots of ideas for warm-ups and practical work to encourage creativity.