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Saltley Midsummer Night's Dream Saltley Midsummer Night's Dream

ANY FOOL CAN START A WAR

13:45 16th June
13:45 and 19:00 17th June
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Saltley Academy and New Place Stratford-upon-Avon.
July 2016


Our collaboration in 2016 producingThe Tempest together proved so encouraging that we agreed to tackle another Shakespeare text in 2017. This time A Midsummer Night's Dream got the Saltey/Stan's Cafe treatment. Again this involved all of Year 8 (12 & 13 year olds) performing in twin productions with each class allocated one Act, but this time we made some improvements to our approach and grew more ambitious.

On this occasion the script was 99% Shakespeare's text but contracted so that although all the plot was retained lots of text shorn bringing the running time down to less than an hour. The text was prepared before the Easter holidays so classes could start learning the play from this edit directly after Easter with rehearsals starting directly after half term.

In contrast to last year classes were all moved around to become mixed ability and each included students just starting to learn English as an additional language. In order to spread the workload and mitigate for illness within the cast all the main roles were shared between two students, with only smaller roles the responsibility of individual students.

Much more emphasis was placed on learning lines this year with a great deal of success. With an assistant director throughout rehearsals this year we were able to timetable each class with five lessons of rehearsals. In English lessons between rehearsals teachers working mostly on comprehension.

As the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream revolves around a lot of love interest, which can be embarrassing to act out, we decided that this should be a puppet show with The Mechanicals the only characters played directly by the students.

In our version The Mechanicals are good actors staging a puppet play within which they act themselves as if they are bad actors. This metafiction was quite subtle, only really revealing itself at the close when the Puck puppet has its eyes and fern taken off and reverts to being just a coil of rope while, in the background a bucket, mop and broom reappear without eyes or costume for the curtain call.

Other advances on last year included incidental music and a boom microphone to help amplify those with quiet voices. The school performances were performed in one of the school's courtyards, which lent them a great atmosphere and prepared the actors for taking their productions to the beautiful surroundings of Shakespeare's New Place, hosted by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. After this the cast (people not puppets) explored Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare's Birthplace.

The students and teachers all committed admirably to the production and made huge strides in their performances and understanding of Shakespeare. At the close of the production they were justifiably proud of themselves and such was their progress that a new production or another Shakespeare was immediately booked in for 2018.

Credits:

Performed by Year 8, Saltley Academy
Edited and directed by James Yarker
Assistant director: Lucy Bird
Dramaturgical advice and extra rehearsals: the English Department
Puppets cobbled together by Lucy Bird & James Yarker
Music: Christine Cornwall and Luke Deane
Photographs: Graeme Braidwood
With help from lots of teachers, Craig Stephens, Lucy Nicholls, Laura Killeen and Roisin Caffrey
with an enormous amount of help from the English Department and entirely impossible without Ms.Parker.

With thanks to New Place (Shakespeare Birth Place Trust) for hosting us and to The Guild Chapel for being on standby in case of rain.

(c) Stan's Cafe 2019
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