In this essay I will discuss ‘Theatre in Education’, defining what it is, companies that perform to children in the UK and also the themes and content of my own theatre in education performance.
I will explain the reasons why I used certain dramatic styles and form in order to better put my point across to my audience.’Theatre in Education’ is a form of drama usually performed to school aged children, where the purpose is to appeal to its audience and to teach them about important life lessons or moral issues such as bullying or drugs etc. The performance is then followed by a ‘workshop’ which the audience get involved in and show what they have learnt. Other dramatic forms and techniques often used in theatre in education are techniques such as multi rolling, monologue, and the use of coral voice and movement as well as many more.CragRats are a theatre in education company based the UK with a team of over 300 professional actors that perform in schools around the country educating children of different ages and academic abilities on several different subjects. For example, promoting career options, enterprise and financial literacy, aimhigher, waste management, road safety, science and technology, health issues, communication skills and PSHE and citizenship. In order for actors to be employed by CragRats they have to attend a casting audition and show that they are right for the job.
Some qualities that CragRats are looking for in applicants are, “you are passionate about what you do and how you do it”, “you love working in a team”, “you relish a challenge”, “you’re a good listener”, “you have a great sense of humour”, “you will be self confident”, “you always give 110%”, “you enjoy responsibility and risk taking” and finally, “you are highly motivated”.The company aims to, “help people realise they’re potential”, “Keep messages clear and simple” and to “deliver an excellent customer experience”. For there visions and aims to be successful and fulfilled they work with their customers to identify their project aims and learning objectives, and design a programme around the aims which meets all the learning objectives in a lasting and effective way. This means that they’re approaches for each performance differs according to ages, numbers, learning outcomes and location.For the performance that my group and I did we had an audience of 11 and 12 year olds, therefore we researched how best to appeal to the younger age group.
One of the things we did in order to do this was watch a CragRats performance for road safety that was targeted to the same age group. I realised that one important technique that the CragRats team used was that during their workshop, they gave the audience a lot of say and freedom in what they did, which is something we tried to do with our workshop as well.For the content of our performance we did little active research as we based the morals and teachings of our play on our own mistakes and what we had learnt in life. However some dramatic forms that we researched and decided had worked well from watching the CragRats performance were things such as coral movement and speech and multi-rolling, therefore we tried to incorporate these into our piece as well.
For example when we repeated a poem three times each time with a slightly different ending, each person spoke in synch and clearly which projected the sound and made a bigger impact with the audience.Whilst rehearsing for this piece we experimented with several different theatrical devices, which included, multi-rolling, monologue, coral movement, and coral speech. Multi-rolling is a dramatic form where an actor plays more than one character within one piece of drama.
It only works if the actor playing two or more characters never has to be on stage as more than one character. We decided that the idea of multi-rolling worked well with our piece as it allowed us to create more characters with only 5 people, which meant that the audience could gain more understanding about how many people were affected by each others actions.Another theatrical device that we rehearsed and decided to use was monologue. A monologue is a long speech said by the actor whilst in role of a character that the actor is playing. In our piece we used monologues at different times for each character because it gave the audience a chance to be told the characters emotions and how they were feeling about what they had done and if they had wanted to do it or not. This worked well because of the young age of our audience they may not have been able to understand some of the emotions that were being portrayed.
Most of the monologues also slowed the pace of the story down, which again made it more suitable for a younger audience.The next device that we rehearsed was coral movement. We saw this in the CragRats performance and noted that it worked very well. Coral movement is where more than one person on stage does the same thing, moving in synch with another.
The main reason we decided to use this technique was that it added a bit of humour to our performance, and therefore caught the audiences’ attention and kept them interested and not bored. We also felt that it was something different to do.Coral speech was also something we saw in the CragRats play that we thought was a good technique. Coral speech is when more than one person on stage says lines in synch. We used this technique to enhance the power of the lines to achieve a greater impact on the audience. We also repeated the poem several times through out the play each with a slightly different ending to show how the plot had progressed. This was effective as, like the CragRats performance we saw, it gave the audience something to associate with the performance they had seen and was also something that hopefully the audience would be able to remember and it would therefore be familiar. We choose the words for our poem, “choices, choices, what to do” because we wanted the audience to go away realising that it was their choice and no one else’s and also to realise that they would have consequences, which were the morals we wanted to portray.
Our performance had elements of humour but also had quite a tragic ending, such as when Natalie Ellie and Louise tease Jody and Sam about loving each other. This appealed to the audience as its very much, ‘playground’ humour. By having humorous elements with in the play we wanted to keep the audience interested and amused by what we were showing them in the hope that they would take ‘on board’ what we were trying to show them. Another example of comedy in the play is when Natalie Ellie and Louise continuously scare Jody and Sam. This makes the audience laugh because it is using dramatic irony as they see us creeping behind Jody and Sam and therefore know what is going to happen.
The next genre of our play is tragedy. It is tragic because of the way Sam gets hurt and also the way that his lies and the way he disobeys his mother ends up coming between them and having a negative effect on their relationship. We chose to use this as a genre because it ‘brings home’ the idea that we are trying to get across. It also has a ‘shock factor’ about it and a realness that the audience can relate to as it is not a fantasy or surreal in anyway.Moments in our play that got good reactions were mainly the comic parts, for example when the three girls tease Jody and Sam about loving each other, and also when the girls are telling ghost stories. These got good reactions because the audience found them interesting and funny. Another part of our performance that got very good reactions were the workshops we did, in particular the ‘circle time’ game.
This is where the class and actors all sat in a circle and in turn we asked them to describe how lying or being lied to made them feel. It got good reactions because most of the group thought very deeply and originally giving in depth descriptions of the emotions that it caused. This helped portray why lying is bad because most could then realise that they didn’t like it when it happened to them.After watching our performance, the messages that we wanted the audience to go away with were that lying can have devastating effects, and also that it affects a lot more people than the immediate. The audience seemed to have appreciated these messages and understood them well as we could tell this by the feelings and emotions that they showed during our workshop.
Theatre in Education was not as I thought it would be. I thought that the audience would be harder to control however they were not and they listened excellently. I also thought that the ‘circle time’ workshop may not work, but it did as the audience opened up and joined in with everything we asked them to which is great.
However some parts were more challenging than I thought they would be, for example coming up with the plot and then changing it in order to fit our audience as we wanted it to make perfect sense. This was hard because there were a lot of little things that needed a lot of thought and it was hard trying to find these bits that weren’t suitable for their young age. It opened my eyes to how hard and what a skill it is to have to adjust your performance to suit different age categories. All in all I learnt a lot from doing this project and think it went well with the audience.