Shakespeare with a Whoosh!

We always love working on Shakespeare with young people and have been delivering drama workshops and Play in a Day to get children excited about his plays across the country.

With this in mind we are really looking forward to the World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) which starts on 23rd April and runs to November 2012. It will be a celebration of Shakespeare, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations.

Artists from around the world will take part in 70 productions, as well as events and exhibitions, right across the UK. This festival forms part of London 2012 Festival, which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

 We have used the Whoosh technique in schools in our Shakespeare drama workshops; it works really well and can be utilized easily by teachers. This technique was devised by Dr Joe Winston of The University of Warwick and is used regularly by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 Whoosh!

Get the group into a circle, either standing or sitting. Tell the group that everyone will have a chance to participate in the telling of a story, Shakespeare or otherwise, by becoming a character or an object in the tale. The rule is that when you say “Whoosh!” they must immediately return to their place in the circle. Start the story and when a key character, event or object is mentioned, indicate to a pupil to step into the circle to make a shape or strike a pose. If more than one character is introduced, indicate they can all enter the circle at the same time.

As the story progresses and more characters or objects are introduced, make sure you move around the circle so that all the pupils are given a chance to take part. If it’s appropriate the whole group can take part at once. Continue telling the story with more pupils stepping in as required – in the first instance they are just striking poses to build up a tableau or frozen picture.

Once the pupils have made a still image, and are feeling more confident, then they can start to add movement to the story. You can build this up to them interacting with one another, and adding improvised dialogue or lines from the play. If you feel the group is able, you can add props for pupils to improvise with.

At any time if the activity inside the circle becomes too unfocused or too boisterous simply say “Whoosh!” and everyone returns to their original place in the circle. The story continues to be told to the end. “Whoosh!” is a very useful tool and can be used as many times as you feel is necessary.

Do get in touch if you would like us to deliver a Shakespeare drama workshop or Play in a Day in your school.

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