This week in celebration of Shakespeare Week and the worldwide watchalong of Will Shake's Henry V, Fiona Lindsay looks at how Shakespeare works in schools and could inspire a generation...
I like Tuesdays: it’s the day of the week I was born, the word looks good on the page, it’s not Monday, pancakes are dedicated to this day and this Tuesday, Tuesday 17th March 2015, made me swell with pride and filled me with joy.
Why? Well, let me try to sit on my hands and to not stand on any soapbox that may be lurking around.
On this Tuesday, Tuesday 17th March 2015, something rather special and important happened. At 10:30am GMT thousands and thousands of young people all over the world sat down and watched Shakespeare’s Henry V. Oceans were calmed, borders crossed and for 16 minutes an audience of 6-12 year olds shared a virtual space and were joined together in a common language: Shakespeare.
This Henry V wasn’t a tub-thumping, trumpet blowing version full of pomp and ceremony but a beautifully crafted fusion of film, theatre and animation made by Short Form Film Company with the ambition of unraveling a great story and tapping into the wonder of Shakespeare’s epic tale.
What sets this piece apart is that it features children in all the roles. There’s no cod acting or dumbing down. The ensemble, which must have a collective age of 50, all inhabit their characters with a gusto and charm that is often robbed from us as we grow up. Theirs is an unedited and visceral connection to the text that gives such clear voice to the storytelling.
It was so refreshing to not have to wade through the wrapping of overly creative concepts. It was very much a case of a story, a group of actors and an audience. My gut tells me that Shakespeare would have approved. How fantastic to know that whole schools gathered today, on this Tuesday, groundling like, to enjoy this 416 year-old play.
Election time is fast upon us and ministers will be evangelising and waving their manifestoes at each other. All sorts of hollow promises will be made about better services for all and the importance of education, education, education. Wouldn’t it be better that the huff and puff actually went into really, really affecting change? Wouldn’t it be better that rather than funding the same big national organisations that hold a monopoly on how Shakespeare is perceived, opportunity is provided to harness alternative immersion in his work?
Take a look at this. Now entertain conjecture of a time... Imagine a treasure chest of short form films of the entire canon created especially for young audiences.
The game’s afoot.