Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shakespeare Shenanigans - How C's appreciation of The Bard is helping me get over my complete ambivalence to Shakespeare - A ReadItTorial

Watch Out, Shakey's about. Well he does look a bit like Jeremy Beadle in this etching

This summer, we've had more than a brush with the Bard, thanks to summer schools held in our area that were developed to help kids get a foothold in the vastly complex works of William Shakespeare.

C has attended drama classes in most of the half term and seasonal breaks this year, and also this summer she was lucky enough to take part in a youth theatre workshop based around Macbeth, surely Shakespeare's most celebrated play.

We were keen to avoid something that I think had happened to both my wife and I as youngsters. The way Shakespeare was (and possibly still is) taught in schools almost felt like a punishment. More for me than my wife admittedly, but a lot of it stems from my complete lack of 'feeling it' for most of his plays, with only a couple of exceptions.

I always loved "The Tempest" but I think a lot of that has to do with loving the movie "Forbidden Planet" more than Shakespeare's original. I also loved King Lear - because this was the only play I ever got a major part in at school - our school always played it safe, played favourites and chose the more talented kids who showed aptitude for drama and I still can't quite remember how on earth I bagged the part of Lear himself, but leapt at the chance nonetheless.

Acting out Shakespeare's work yourself feels like a far more natural way to learn the works, learn their meaning and embrace the world as it was in Shakespeare's time - and the themes he was tackling underneath his historical dramas and comedies.

How relevant some of that stuff is to today's world wildly varies, but the times I've seen Shakespeare's work given a 'modern twist' never really filled me with much confidence that they work when brought up to date.

C's version of Macbeth was pretty untainted, diving into the key scenes of the play from the gnarly old witches to the final battles (and of course C loving playing Macduff, getting to lop Macbeth's head off in the climactic sword fight - thankfully figuratively though those fencing lessons from earlier in the year obviously came in useful).

Shakespeare always felt to me like it wasn't classless enough, and that you had to be 'posh' to develop an appreciation for the themes, the language and of course the plays. But though your opinions may vary wildly on the relevance of Shakespeare to your own child's development or learning journey, the works deserve to be scrutinised and given a chance to breathe.

I'm slowly coming round, as a working class kid who always felt like there were far more interesting things to read I'm suddenly slowly beginning to understand why Shakespeare's work appeals to my daughter - and a lot of it has to do with the fact that kids just won't find anything parallel in the sort of stories they're growing up with.

All the underlying plots and characters, themes and circumstances in Shakespeare's plays can actually be pared out and seen in other work and I think making that discovery for themselves lets kids feel like they're pioneering practitioners of something rather special and unique.

At the end of the week of workshops C didn't want them to end, and it's given us new impetus to once again dig out all our books on Shakespeare and of course delve into his work again ourselves.

So if there's hope for me, there may be hope for you and your kids too. Give ol' Shakey another chance, you never know, you might just find a new appreciation for The Bard too!