RADA’s Young Actors Summer School – Exploring Shakespeare, 2018

For one week last summer I had the amazing opportunity of participating in a short course at RADA. Targeted at young people who are interested in Theatre and the Dramatic Arts, the courses are designed to encourage you to work creatively and generously in an ensemble; it is a great opportunity to meet people and to learn new skills, including useful voice and movement skills. There were a range of courses to choose from, such as Stagecraft and Devising Theatre, but I chose Exploring Shakespeare, mainly because I had never done much Shakespeare before and wanted to try something new. I was surprised by how varied the course was: as well as doing Shakespeare we took classes in Stage Combat, Dance, Movement and Voice, which were challenging but really fun.

The course was held at the school itself in Camden, just off Tottenham Court Road, and we were working in their many studio and performance spaces. I had been to the school before to do a speaking course, but now it seemed even bigger; most days we were working in new spaces on one of the five floors!

When I arrived on the Tuesday morning there were around 75 of us all taking part. We were quickly split into groups and each group had a Director who worked with us for the week. Focusing on Pericles – one of Shakespeare’s less well know plays – we spent a week going through the play and devising certain scenes and moments that we thought would work in a production. The play has so many great characters, including some fantastic contrasting female roles, such as Marina and Dionyza. Some of our most creative classes focused on speeches by a character called Gower, who narrates a lot of the play and gives historical context. Initially he seemed like quite an uninteresting character (his part is often heavily cut in productions), but we tried to reinvent his lines into something more exciting and unusual. People tried sharing the lines in groups of three or four, some of us experimented with the staging of the speeches using levels and tableaus to enhance the story.

Aside from working on Pericles, we also looked at Shakespeare’s sonnets. Prior to starting the course, each of us had been asked to learn one of the sonnets to use and experiment with during the week. In our first lesson, we explored the arguments within the poems and decided who the poems could be written to or about. We also tried translating them into simple English so that we had a clearer idea of the meaning they were trying to communicate. Finally, we looked at the sounds and word choices. Our teacher got us to read our sonnets only speaking the vowels, or sometimes we would only speak the verbs. I found all the exercises really engaging and useful and it helped me to find new ways in which poetry could be spoken.

One of the highlights of the course was working on the opening scene from Henry V. At the end of each day all the groups would come together and we worked on this scene with one of our voice coaches. Everyone was allocated a line and we would have an hour everyday to try and devise the whole prologue. We had to work at a fast pace in order to create something in time for the end of the week, so it was really stressful but very rewarding. We wanted something that was aesthetically striking but also full of energy (and made sense). Eventually, we finished choreographing it and we performed it to our Directors in the GBS Theatre at the school.

Overall it was a fantastic course and I am so grateful to the Calne Foundation Trust for generously supporting my participation. It definitely strengthened my passion for Theatre and has made me more excited about pursuing a career in the Dramatic Arts in the future.

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