A Case Study of Flametree’s Shakespeare Festival – July 2013
The origins of the project
Flametree were approached by the headteacher of a Buckinghamshire primary school to work with the teachers and pupils to develop a Shakespeare Festival to be performed at the end of the Summer term. The objectives of the project were two-fold. Firstly, due to some extensive building work, pupils were being moved from their classrooms, and rehoused in a variety of other rooms both within the school and were also be accommodated by local community venues. This project was to help ease this disruption, to take the focus away from the upheaval of moving, and to give the whole school an alternative goal. Secondly, the headteacher has a very strong vision of how the creative arts should be used within the curriculum to enhance and develop learning, providing hands on experiences and collaborative working both across the school and with external community groups, organisations and professionals.
Having seen some of our previous work, and appreciating the holistic view that we take to production, the partnership with Flametree was a great match.
Flametree have a very simple approach to the projects that they run, and these elements are evident in all aspects of their work from film and voice production and costume making to therapeutic interventions, live performance pieces and large scale sculptures (to name but a few).
Every project has the same principles: Communication; Thoughtfulness; Engagement & Creativity. All of this is achieved through hands on experiential learning, and collaborative working.
When working with Shakespeare, we look beyond the story, the history and the preconceptions of confusing scripts and funny language. We begin a journey of exploration, finding out what Shakespeare’s plays can mean to us, finding a way for each individual to build a relationship with the themes, the characters and the places. Building islands to inhabit, devising additional scenes to help us understand the meanings and the motives behind the characters, creating large scale book covers to jump in and out of the story and making costumes and props to gain a visual perspective.
The Project details
The project was run over 7 weeks, working with years 4, 5 & 6 for one day a week each. We also met regularly with teaching staff and pupils from the other year groups to offer them support and guidance on developing their contribution to the end production. The initial vision for the end production was that years 4, 5 & 6 would perform for each other, their parents and their local community in week 7. Owning to the organic nature of our approach, this vision grew as the project developed, each session bringing with it more ideas, more achievements and a bigger plan for our performance. By week 5 it became evident that the whole school had embraced the project, and were using the themes, stories, language and concepts from the Tempest in all areas of their curriculum. We then suggested that we invite all year groups from Foundation to Year 6, to take part in the end performance. The results were a piece of theatre on the move, led by students, and moving around all areas of their school grounds from the school hall, to the playground, to the recently constructed Yurt, to the Forest School area and onwards through the local field ending up at the community scout hut. There were two performances, attended by over 300 audience members.
Blog entries from teachers & pupils
Weekly blog diary by Year 5 teacher:
Year 5 had a very productive session with Flametree this week when they worked together to create a storyboard to tell the main events in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Following some fun warm up activities altogether and then in pairs, the children had to come up with their own movements to portray each significant event in the story. Their creativity was astounding and they were full of ideas. By the end of morning, they had worked out and memorised a full sequence of movements to tell the story of The Tempest. In the afternoon, they developed their ideas further by representing each part of the story through painting.
Weekly blog diary by year 6 pupils:
This week, we are continuing our Shakespearean adventure with the play The Tempest. After two sessions with Liz and Joley from Flametree, we are beginning to develop our understanding of the story and the characters. We have also begun to hone our acting skills!
Yesterday, we were re-enacting the argument of the two brothers that we felt should have been included in the original play. We learnt about argumentative postures and phrases, comebacks, fast reflexes and commentating. We learnt that a proper argument shouldn’t involve throwing insults at each other! This helped us to understand the relationship between the two brothers in the play (Antonio and Prospero) and in the process, we filled a gap with some information that we feel Shakespeare left out of his play.
In the afternoon we took some small wooden bricks to represent the different aspects of ourselves, both good and bad. We then set up three paths out of chairs that led us straight to the stage, which represented the island in the play. Whilst we were blindfolded, we walked down a path until we reached the stage (island). On removing the blindfold, we were given the choice to either throw away a few bricks or keep them all. We kept some and found a safe place on the stage to put them.
In groups of 10, we created our own island from a particular character’s point of view using apparatus from around the hall including chairs, mats, benches, tarpaulin, gym apparatus, jumpers and shoes. Then we explained about our island and how the character that we were given felt, what they saw and how they would survive on the island.
We are very much enjoying our project with Flametree and we hope that the final production is as much fun as the journey!
By Amelia and Byron
Reviews from Chair of Governors
Review by Elizabeth Adlington
Very well done with the Shakespeare project, I have heard nothing but enthusiastic comments including children saying it was fantastic and they wanted to do it again next year! It was a wonderful chance for ALL the children to explore a single piece of work and share their learning with parents. The children’s skills in story telling, writing, music, verse, acting, puppetry and film-making (to name a few disciplines) was a perfect example of how rich the children’s learning can be through the school developing this approach to learning. The great addition to the experience, was seeing the facilities at the school through fresh eyes -the wide open space, the interesting corners which served as impromptu stages for telling the story, the magical forest within our forest school, and our fabulous new outdoor classroom, the yurt sitting magnificently in the school field. My congratulations to everyone involved who contributed to creating such a magical experience, and to Flametree for helping us to discover new possibilities at Brookmead.
Elizabeth Young, Chair of Governors