Boys gained an invaluable fresh insight into their GCSE set English texts when a visiting theatre company staged two plays, along with innovative interactive workshops.
The Say Two Productions company performed Romeo and Juliet – a set text for Year 11 pupils – and J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, which Year 10 are currently studying.
Head of English Robert Hyland said: “The majority of time in class has been spent looking closely at the linguistic and thematic features of the texts in a purely literary context. It is really important for the boys to be able to appreciate how the literary foundation of the classroom translates into the dramatic sphere of performance if they are to maximize their understanding of the texts.”
In addition to performing the plays, the accompanying workshop programme involved hot-seating – where a character in a play is questioned about his or her background, behaviour and motivation.
“Ordinarily in a performance, the audience and actors are kept separate. On this occasion the workshops led by Say Two were innovative in the way the company really encouraged students to engage in the process of understanding how the page translated to the stage, and the theatrical purpose of Priestley’s and Shakespeare’s writing,” Mr Hyland added.
Jeshvin Jesudas, of Year 10, praised the interactive way in which An Inspector Calls was shown and the hot-seating, which, he said, “helped us to understand how the characters actually felt and gave us a greater and wider understanding of the play”.
The boys were also encouraged to speak out the dialogue from various scenes and to consider the relationship between the characters and how the characters perceived themselves.
For Romeo and Juliet, an interactive staging in costume of the Capulet Ball (Act 1, Scene 5) and of the sword fight between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt (Act 3, Scene 1) helped show Romeo’s progression through the text, proving popular with the boys.
Sajeev Karunakaran, of Year 11, said: “It was a very enjoyable performance that expanded my knowledge of the play. I enjoyed the open discussion on the key themes of the play, and the best parts were the interactive activities like the sword-fighting.”
The staging of both plays sought to engender greater insight into the key themes. “The aim was to aid students in their understanding of the set texts as dramatic texts, in addition to simply being academic texts to be studied as literature. Students can hugely benefit in their understanding of the plays if they understand the stagecraft and can anticipate the audience reaction,” added Mr Hyland.
Afterwards, several of the boys gave their views on Say Two’s visit:
- Jai Patel, one of the Year 10 pupils who participated in the workshop for An Inspector Calls: “It was a very detailed insight into the actions and morals of the characters, showing text character development as the play progresses.”
- Umer Saad Rahman, of Year 10: “It clearly showed the development of the characters and helped to improve my understanding. It was very interesting and interactive.”
- Chakshu Chopra, of Year 10: “The performance was extremely engaging, and it portrayed many themes that we learned in class. Watching the performance helped me understand more and really brought the ideas and theories we learned to life.”
- Dylan Domb, of Year 10, enjoyed seeing the twists and turns of the narrative happening right in front of him.
- Jao-Yong Tsai, of Year 10, felt the production helped to show the recurring themes more clearly and to illustrate the deep ironies and contradicting views in the play.
- Ansh Jassra, of Year 10: “I was able to achieve a greater understanding of the interactions between the characters, which, in turn, aided deeper analysis of the stage directions.”
- Daniel Rodrigues, of Year 11, thought that the actors helped the audience further understand the plot and he enjoyed a very “immersive experience”.
- Athiyan Chandramohan, of Year 11, felt the occasion was informative, helping him understand the themes of the play much better.