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Drama, drama, drama!

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that my biggest passion (apart from my weird obsession with the singer Joe Cocker – which will be another blog post) is drama. Acting, directing, theatre, film, TV – whatever it is I can’t get away from it. I have been doing it for 20 years and I’m not going to stop no matter where else life takes me. So, it is no surprise that I am a huge advocate for drama to be taught in schools. Every time educational news mentions drama it is in some negative and derogatory way – ‘drama no longer taught in academy chain…’ ‘focus on more academic subjects…’ ‘no longer relevant to today’s youth…’ What I don’t understand is why this is the case when drama is so clearly all-encompassing in academia.
Educational legislators want our youth to be well rounded and high achieving pupils who are confident and can compete in the global market. The counter argument to this is that in the UK we promote creativity and that there is a danger of losing that uniqueness which will create a void in the skills of the arts industries. I think it is more than this though:
It is my belief that drama should be a core subject in schools. From the outside I can see why putting on a play might seem like a niche and a bit strange to those who are not used to it. The theatre industry is made up of a very unique blend of people from the sublime to the ridiculous but when you strip down each aspect it is clear to see how all academic subjects are involved in it.
I will highlight this by using a real-life example: As a theatre practitioner my role is as varied and as random as the work I am involved in. One such aspect is that of the technical crew. I have recently been helping the technical crew at my local theatre during ‘get ins and get outs’ – where the set is constructed and the technical requirements are put in place. Each play/production is completely unique and has its own demands. The example I am going to discuss is ‘The Woman in Black’ which came to my theatre last year.
The set was extensive and the technical requirements were vast for a mid-scale touring show. What I will highlight is how aspects of the production were directly linked to the academic core and foundation subjects currently being taught in schools:

English – the obvious one – it all starts with a script; reading the script and dissecting it to ensure you have drawn out all of the possibilities. They had to explore how to use the script of Woman in Black to give the best experience to the audience – what point is the horror at its highest? What are the funny moments to juxtapose the fear in the play?
Maths – All of the set was done to scale in order to fit in the theatres they were touring to. The length of flats, the angles which they were placed on, angles and heights of lights all required maths to work it out. Even the packing of the lorries and the way the pieces of set fit together!
Science – the physics involved in set construction are tremendous. As well as the angles mentioned above there is also the elements of design which require physics to work out. In the Woman in Black the effects were created by the use of physics to determine when/how something could be visible/invisible. When could something move of its own accord and reset itself? How much smoke is too much/too little? Which materials work well under certain colours of lights and which combine strength for durability without being too heavy to construct?
Computing – The lights and sounds in professional theatre are programmed in to computer software so that the show can be ran ‘automatically’ using a ‘go’ button. The entire system is now computer based and the most technically demanding show requires a vast knowledge of the software and how it communicates with the hardware – speakers/lights etc. Woman in Black had unique ‘special’ lights and sound effects which had be programmed and delivered with pin point accuracy to enhance the atmosphere of the play.
Physical Education – the 2 main actors in Woman in Black had to showcase their skills of physical theatre which they would have to practice the moves of until they were fully confident with them. As an actor you need to have a level of physical fitness which means you will not be injured and be able to do the actions which the piece requires. The technical team need to be able to lift, climb ladders and squeeze into small spaces all in the allocated time for the get in.
Citizenship – Not only does theatre explore life – which is citizenship itself but you are also working in a large team. On Woman in Black the technical team, the company crew and the creative team all had to work together to get the space ready for the production. In theatre you work with and play to an entire range of people. A key aspect of putting on a play is that of how your production will relate to an audience. No matter what aspects of life you are exploring it can never completely alienate your audience to be a success. The social commentary which theatre showcases is a clear aspect of Citizenship.

The above are only the core and foundation subjects taught in UK schools. I could write extensively about how drama crosses into every subject!
I would like to flip the idea on its head though and leave you with this question – if we look at all of the academic aspects of theatre and we turned drama into a core subject, how many of the other core/foundation subjects could it replace?
Until next time! Chris x

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