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Thursday, 04 February 2016
Boys’ Division pupils in Year 8 developed their directing skills with Christina Lydon, the Octagon Theatre’s Creative Learning Director. In a series of workshops throughout the school day, she worked with each class on the challenging task of directing Shakespeare.
Since the start of the year, boys in Year 8 have been working towards achieving Bronze Arts Awards by working on Shakespeare plays as young directors and actors. Each class has focused on a different play and the list includes comedies, histories and tragedies such as Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, and Henry IV (Part 1).
In Christina’s workshop, the boys looked at The Merchant of Venice and in particular the character of Shylock. As she pointed out in the course of the session, this is a particularly interesting challenge, as directors must decide how to portray this polarising character and guide the audience through their feelings about him.
The boys began by looking at insults taken from the play. They discussed what these told them about the character and how they might direct actors to get them to express their characters’ feelings towards Shylock through Shakespeare’s words. Christina then revealed that Shylock is a Jew, and how this changes the audience’s perceptions and the way the director needs to approach the portrayal of the character. The boys worked really hard to take Christina’s advice into account as they put together their own ideas and staged the insults, the scene culminating in Shylock’s famous, “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech. The boys were able to discuss their reasons for making certain decisions, and what effect these might have on their audience.
The sessions with Christina were really valuable for the boys and got them thinking more about what they can do as directors to influence the audience and change attitudes towards different characters.
Pupils in Year 7 are also working towards the Explore level of the Arts Award by completing a ‘page to stage’ project using Roald Dahl as inspiration. All of the boys are really enjoying working in partnership with the Octagon Theatre, taking part in fantastic workshops and finding out more about the work behind the scenes that goes into putting on a production.
The Arts Awards are managed by Trinity College London in association with Arts Council England.
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