Whispers from the Wings

Asking for help

September 25, 2012

school hallAt a certain moment, fairly early on in the show, I walk over to a member of the audience sitting in the front row and enlist their help. I ask them to do something for me. It's something a little bit mischievous, something I imagine theatre-goers are rarely asked to do.

During the pre-show, I usually do a quick scan of the audience, trying to find somebody who I think will respond well to my request. I'm looking for younger members of the audience who seem to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

On Thursday morning's performance at Archibald Primary School in Middlesborough, one particular young boy was so lively that he wanted to engage with us right from the off. 'Hey,' he called over to me as I entered holding my tray of refreshments, 'Can I have a drink?'

In fact, he was so full of beans that his teacher frequently had to ask him to settle down. As a result of this, I quickly learned his name. For the sake of this blog, we'll call him Paul. But that isn't his real name.

Anyway, it seemed to me that Paul wasn't a bad kid at all, just a bit restless and frustrated. Just the sort of person, then, who could turn out to be brilliant at drama. It dawned on me that this was a fantastic opportunity to show him that the qualities for which he was probably often chastised could, if put to good use, be real strengths. I decided that I would come to him for help when the moment arrived.

Not only that, I would address him by name. That would really get through to him, I thought. An actor stepping out of the drama and connecting directly with him.

The moment arrived. As I scuttled over to him, it suddenly dawned on me - what if this was actually a terrible idea? What if this was precisely the sort of thing I shouldn't be doing? What if I was not only encouraging him to misbehave, but also suggesting that he should be rewarded for it?

I didn't really have time to properly consider this, and I'm not sure I'm qualified to speculate anyway. I went with my gut. 'Paul...'

For a moment, he was surprised. But, undeterred, he rose to the challenge. He seemed drawn in by this bizarre event, and when I met him in our workshop later that afternoon, he was throwing himself into the work with all the excitement that he'd had to reign in whilst he was sitting in the hall, waiting for the show to begin, earlier in the day. I'm glad I did it.

by Ben Deery  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare