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Date: Apr, 2010 Views: 2631

Street Theatre workshops and performance

What we wanted to do

We wanted to teach the pupils some street theatre techniques and apply what was learnt in rehearsal to a performance for the general public.

In the process we wanted to boost the students’ confidence, facilitate in their learning of new acting skills and to give them a taste of what it would be like to work with a professional theatre company.

What we did

We held a series of workshops at the school.

The first session took the form of an introduction to a very specific style of street theatre – a peripatetic style and technique pioneered by the Natural Theatre Company of Bath (www.naturaltheatre.co.uk) 

The company do not do shows as such but rather people an outside space with immaculately dressed characters that amuse, bemuse and entertain.

The company was formed in 1969 by a group of fine artists and is still going strong today.  It has performed in over 100 different countries on all five continents.

Early on in the workshops mask theatre techniques were practiced in the studio.  The techniques learned were then applied to the Naturals’ famous street theatre scenarios - these were then un-leashed on the unsuspecting pupils at the Academy.  While the pupils were in the school having their lunch, for example, they were suddenly met with various collections of unusual characters including aliens with pointy heads from outer space, serious looking protesters holding placards with ‘National No Smiling Day’ written on them or odd looking dog walkers pulling toy dogs behind them.

Finally the participants acted out three performances in Folkestone High Street on a busy Saturday.

The alien characters walked up and down the high street taking photos of passers-by, even going shopping in Superdrug!

The Protesters caused quite a stir.  Some members of the public thought they were real and told them to cheer up; others wanted them moved on; but the vast majority got the joke and enjoyed watching everybody else who didn’t!

The Dog Walkers with their toy dogs got a warm reaction from people – one even stroked the toy and asked the name of the dog was!
The public reacted to the various characters in different ways – many were surprised and delighted, some were totally bemused and a few wanted to alert the police!

The event was filmed by the Media Dept students and has been featured in the local press.

What impact did it have for the children involved?

The participants had never performed in masks before and they were surprised at how expressive an actor can be in a full mask.  The participants learnt about visual comedy, improvisation and interpersonal skills.

Comments from Kay Vanderhoeven, Head of Drama,Folkestone Academy:

“The students who participated were visibly impacted by this project as they were taken out of their comfort zone and challenged. They had to rely on their acting skills and their inner strengths as they performed to the general public. As some of the students have self esteem issues this whole project has worked towards building the students self belief which is a priceless life skill.”

Did the work lead to any differences within the school?

I have since heard from a friend at the school that the drama department has created new characters and have performed them at the Academy since the workshop finished.

The Academy’s drama teacher recorded the workshops and performances and would be well placed to comment on the differences in the school.

Comments from Kay Vanderhoeven, Head of Drama,Folkestone Academy:

“As the students practised their roles about the school, not confining themselves to their learning space other students were able to join in with the process and this engendered a palpable buzz around the school, raising the students and the Drama Department’s profile.”

“Gary worked extremely well with the BTEC students and has helped to establish a link between them and the UCF thus raising their aspirations for a possible higher educational pathway.”