Tuesday: The day of two performances

Learning Lines #20

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.

A boy lies on the floor in a white top and blue jeans with a headdress of branches
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC Browse and license our images

Tuesday: The day of two performances, the last two after six weeks of trials and tribulations and no small element of fun.

I decided not to have a rehearsal as the cast and choir needed a break and to be honest there was no real need, if they all pulled it together it would be fine. Year 5 spent the morning doing English and Maths and Year 6 playing on the iPads.

The first performance was to around 30 parents and friends. We gave each cast and choir member two free tickets and charged £1 for any remaining tickets to offset production costs. The programmes were free. 

The fairy dust arrived - the children were magic from the Head teacher’s introduction to the last applause at the end. Theseus was back and our new Quince remembered her lines. I’d given the cast feedback following yesterday’s performance and I’d told them to glance at me (I was standing at the back) I was then able to signal to them which meant they knew to speak louder or to slow down. 

The whole play flowed, the great audience reactions helped the children, Hermia and Helena’s dance brought the house down and from there the play kicked on to the end. For the first time Kera, Helena, trusted herself to let her deeper voice compliment Wiki’s, Hermia, higher one instead of trying to sing at her pitch. The jumps as Ophelia roared was a sign of how enraptured the audience was. A special mention must go to the soloists in the choir, who sang off stage but were visible. The choir was brilliant and supported the soloists on stage with real volume, if you can have two soloists!

A group of very excited children went home that afternoon. It was only then that Wiki revealed she was petrified of performing in front of her parents - even at home - and they had been in the audience. Thank heavens I didn't know that before or I would have been even more nervous! I knew now why her mum had been crying.

The children came back for the evening performance at 5.30pm for a 6pm curtain up, mostly on time although we had to hold the start for a late comer. The evening performance was a virtual sell out with around 90 tickets sold although there were a few no shows! Between the two shows the Head teacher mentioned to me that next year it would be good to have a summary of the plot for parents. Why wait till next year? It shows how efficient our pupil led front of house team were in that they printed the plot and inserted them into the programmes before the start of the second performance. 

The children were much calmer getting changed which was a good sign and showed that they were focused. The performance that evening was brilliant everything was perfect, after unit 5 I just stood and watched, they didn’t need me anymore, it was a well-oiled machine. Rest assured I’m not one to use rose tinted glasses but it really was that good. We could have put it on a professional stage. 

The audience were quiet and mesmerised all through. As a watcher, I actually felt that they were the characters and not my year 5 and 6 children. At the end the children were euphoric, their sense of achievement written all over their faces, but they didn’t half look shattered.

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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