Herding Cats

Learning Lines #19

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we invited every UK school to join RSC Dream Team 2016 and to take part in a nationwide celebration of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As part of this celebration we created a 60 and a 30 minute edit of the play for schools to perform.

Andy Smith, a teacher at Langland Community School, very kindly agreed to trial the 30 minute edit for us and this is a blog of his school's journey.


Performance Week!

Monday morning - first real crisis. We were going to have a full run through and I got the message that Sabrina had gone to Africa on holiday, so no Quince! What to do? Stay calm and make sure pupils stayed calm even though I was pretty cross. Step forward Pryanthi (our Peaseblossom) who said she knew most of the smaller sections and for the bigger sections she could read off a script. Sophie stepped up from a non-speaking fairy part to play Peaseblossom. I felt really sorry for Sabrina who after all her hard work in rehearsals didn’t get to perform.

Meanwhile the technical crew was frantically producing a scroll for the long speech in Unit 5 - “Here is a scroll of every man’s name”.

Monday’s run through went very well apart from issues with getting children to change quickly. Why do they take so long? I still needed Theseus and Hippolyta to be louder and Titania to speak more slowly.

Monday afternoon was our first performance to the school. We were having a three performance run, with a matinee to the school on the Monday then a matinee and evening performance on the Tuesday. The evening performance was a first for our school and I pushed for it because as a working parent I missed some of my son’s performances. The cast and choir were very hyped up and trying to get the boys changed in the green room so the girls could come back in from another room where they were changing took forever. Then no sooner had I got everyone in the green room then they disappeared again, herding cats is my best analogy! 

Second crisis: No Theseus - he had gone home at lunchtime having been sick, although he had really wanted to stay. Hippolyta had to say her lines and then his, I’m sure the audience didn’t notice. Against my better judgement Pryanthi was adamant she didn’t need a script and when she dried up in Unit 5 it took frantic arm waving from the side to get the prompts script passed to her. But she didn’t freeze or panic, she just waited, like a true professional and went on for her next scene no problem, what a trooper! 

The audience was made up of the younger children in the school who enjoyed the slap stick elements from the mechanicals most of all. Everyone was nervous and spoke rather quickly and a number of the children a little bit quietly so a play that lasts 50* minutes was over in 35, but the adults watching were very complimentary which lifted the cast but I knew we could do better. (I know what you are thinking, it’s a 30 minute edit.The script is 30 minutes but it takes time for the cast to get on and off stage and there are times when the cast were acting without actually saying anything, the songs added about 12 or some minutes).

Bring on the next performance! 

Andy Smith

Andy Smith

Andy Smith, from Langland Primary School in Milton Keynes, has been a classroom teacher for 30 years mainly in schools in areas of high deprivation. He is blogging about his school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of RSC Dream Team 2016.

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