Tag Archive | "Education"

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Offer: Free access code for Teaching Drama digital edition

Posted on 12 April 2014 by Lucia Genziani

Calling all Drama teachers! We’ve teamed up with Rhinegold Publishing to offer you a free access code for the interactive digital edition of Teaching Drama.

Teaching Drama

Written for teachers by teachers, practitioners and playwrights, Teaching Drama is a twice-termly magazine for anyone involved in drama and performing arts education. Published just before the start of each term and half term, Teaching Drama offers a mix of news, features, schemes of work and in-depth reviews. Whether you’re newly-qualified or a head of department, there’s plenty of inspiring ideas and advice for all drama teachers.

Click here to register with the access code AYT14 for the digital edition of Teaching Drama.

The Spring and Summer 2014 magazines are both ready to download and read on any device with a browser.

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Feature: Theatre at the Science Museum – Very loud bangs? Check.

Posted on 31 March 2014 by Dan Hutton

(c) Benjamin Ealovega

(c) Benjamin Ealovega

It’s not often you get handed a pair of ear defenders when walking into a rehearsal room; they are ordinarily ‘safe’ spaces with an air of creative calm, cultivated in order to provide the best working environment for cast and team alike. At the Science Museum, however, actors rehearsing for The Energy Show have to remain equipped throughout. Goggles? Check. Gloves? Check. Very loud bangs? Check.

These bangs, I am told, have often caused alarm in the exhibition space itself, which comes as no surprise. Setting fire to a balloon filled with combination of oxygen and hydrogen creates the kind of boom that would wake you up in the middle of the night, fearing some not-so-distant gasworks had exploded. There is, probably, some important scientific reason we get to hear and watch this succession of loud bangs, but I’m too busy giggling like a schoolchild to notice.

Sam Mason, who has co-written the show alongside his day job as Commercial Director of the Science Museum, tells me this is kind of the point: “We have an end purpose in that we’d like people to get excited about science, because that’s part of the mission of why the Science Museum exists, but I don’t mind if they get excited about theatre; I don’t mind if they just have an hour-and-a-quarter of a really good time, and we’ve made them laugh and think a bit.” Crucially, this is a show which will appeal to all ages and interests: “I think if you were a 70-year-old, retired science teacher you’d have a really good time, I think if you were a 15-year-old rugby player, you’d have a really good time.” Considering my glee at watching balloons go up in flames, it’s hard not to agree.

(c) Benjamin Ealovega

(c) Benjamin Ealovega

The reference to ‘theatre’ is, Mason tells me, crucial to the success of The Energy Show, which opened last year to rave reviews (“the first show I’ve done that had universally positive reviews!”) and returns again this month before a nationwide tour. He and his team found that, though there were plenty of science lectures and demonstrations on offer, few managed to give their audiences a truly ‘theatrical’ experiences. This show, co-written with Director Martin Lamb, attempts to cross that boundary, and tries “to find a different way to engage audiences with science”. It’s not a subject, he says, “that theatre companies automatically look to – there’s a million shows on love and emotions and education – but there aren’t that many that just look at science. But it’s extraordinarily exciting and fascinating.”

The show, set in a non-specific steampunk-y world (“it could be Victorian or it could be a thousand years from now”), follows the journey of two young scientists whose professor has given them the task of presenting and demonstrating all nine forms of energy using only materials they find in the lab. “One is a very methodical scientist,” Mason tells me, whilst “the other just wants to blow stuff up,” thus effortlessly creating the tension between two modes of carrying out the scientific process and adding drama to boot. Along the way, they are joined by their digital helper, ‘iNestein’, whose presence allows the show to give scientifically accurate explanations without ever hindering the action, and a trusty humanoid robot, Bernard.

With the rise of popular science in recent years, it’s unsurprising that this show has come along now, and Mason is completely unapologetic about it being zeitgeisty, citing Brian Cox, Dara O’Briain and The Big Bang Theory as instigators of this trend: “They don’t care about being fashionable or trendy – what they care about is the science and the world, and how that works. And what’s interesting is that it’s making that a valid option to be cool, so you don’t have to like One Direction or even know who the hell they are.”

In order to see how much science has captured the collective imagination in recent years, you need only look towards the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the continued excitement about CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the superstardom of Commander Chris Hadfield. On the eve of my chat with Mason, Stephen Hawking made worldwide news as he won a bet about early waves, and Mason suggests that science is not viewed with the scepticism it once was: “they are just experimenting, they’ve got no aims, they’re just playing. So you have thousands of the best minds in the world in one place just playing.”

This constant questioning, lack of definable purpose and desire to ‘play’ is, I suggest, arguably the same of the best theatre, making the decision to stage science an intelligent one. “Theatre can grasp vast concepts and always has,” Mason continues, “Back from Greek theatre, they were always dealing with massive ideas and massive concepts from gods to war. And if you can recreate a war on stage, you can recreate the science stuff.”

Ultimately, Mason wants to use Science Museum Live to help pull down the divide between art and science: “I’ve worked in arts all my life, and you always have people saying ‘I’m not an arts person’, even though they have a huge music collection, have art on the wall, watch films and drama and wear designer clothes. You engage with arts from second you wake up to when you go to bed. Equally, I don’t think you have to say ‘I’m into science’; that doesn’t mean you’re not interested in how things are made, and what is out there in the universe.”

After The Energy Show, “What is out there in the universe” is what Science Museum Live hopes to tackle next, coinciding with a giant Cosmonauts exhibition in the museum itself. This would, of course, necessitate utilising the full size of the IMAX space in order to get a sense of the “breathtaking scale” of space. The museum is no stranger to complex ideas, having collaborated with Complicite and Sound&Fury on shows about maths and blindness, so space seems the next logical step. And after that? “We’re hoping to do a massive thing on robots, with actual robots. I’d love to have robots on stage.”

They say don’t work with children or animals. Perhaps, thanks to Science Museum Live, we’ll be adding robots to that list in the not-too-distant future.

The Energy Show is at the Science Museum from 3-11 April, and then touring. For more information, visit Science Museum Live’s website.

Dan Hutton

Dan Hutton

Dan recently graduated with a degree in English and Theatre Studies from the University of Warwick. He is a theatre-maker, freelance theatre critic and a company director of Barrel Organ Theatre.

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Review: Going Dark, Science Museum

Posted on 06 March 2014 by Jemma Anderson

Going Dark


“We are literally made from scattered stardust. What started off as a big ball of hydrogen has ended up as you”.

When you think about things that way, it can be scary, huh? The above quote is taken from Sound&Fury’s Going Dark, which thoroughly investigates our abilities to understanding the universe and vision. Set in a constructed black box theatre in a corner of the London Science Museum, this 75-minute show is sure to change your way of thinking about the world we live in.

The premise is simple: Sound&Fury theatre company specialise in work that explores sensory deprivation in order to create a new way of seeing for the audience. Their pieces involve experimenting with surround sound or no visuals, for example, and this show is no different. In collaboration with writer Hattie Naylor, the production follows Max, a narrator at the city’s planetarium who guides his audience through the great expanse of our universe. Whilst also caring for his young son, Leo, he discovers that his eyesight is failing him, and it becomes a story of a man’s struggle to understand the universe around him, as well as the different kind of vision required to see things at a great distance.

The play itself is well-written, and so choc-full of facts about the universe it makes your head spin a tad. Flitting between Max’s lectures at the museum, which include a narration of the Big Bang, just how fast the Earth is spinning around the Sun (43,000 miles an hour) and how far away Andromeda is (2.5 million light years), we also get a peek into Max’s home and his relationship with his son as they struggle to adjust to Max’s diagnosis with RP (retinitis pigmentosa), a disease that affects the retina of the eye, causing blindness.

Whilst your mind is still racing with questions about the universe, life, matter and everything in between, the story is played out using Sound&Fury’s signature staging. Pitch-black darkness fills the room, so much so that it would be hard to see your own hand in front of your face, and a surround-sound of an everyday scene, for example getting on the tube, fills your ears. The noise is so detailed that you picture everything as it happens right in front of your eyes, except you’re completely blinded by darkness. A projection box is situated in the middle of the room. Several times you find yourself completely enthralled by the incredible spans of stars covering the ceiling, and your ability to spot the most famous constellations. You can’t help but be incredibly immersed in the expanse of our universe, and its astonishing beauty.

This show is bound to enthrall anyone with a thirst for knowledge about science. I can’t help but wish all my science lessons at school were this cool. With the show explicitly commenting on the idea that we are all on a journey into blindness, standing on the edge of an abyss that reflects our tiny, miniscule, minute place in the huge universe, we too begin to reflect on our journeys and how we came to be just an infinitely small piece of scattered stardust that exists in the world.

Going Dark is playing at The Science Museum until 9 March. For more information and tickets see the Science Museum website.

Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

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Feature: Call for Action – IdeasTap Inspires

Posted on 05 March 2014 by Billy Barrett

“We’ve built a site that manages calls for action,” says Amanda White, Strategic Partnerships Director for IdeasTap. The charity maintains a database of more than 135,000 people seeking opportunities in the creative industries, growing at a rate of 200 members per day. It’s become an invaluable resource for organisations to tap into, simplifying and water-tightening application processes that would otherwise take far more time and people-power. Recently awarded a £250,000 Exceptional Award from Arts Council England, the charity is now in “really, really early days” of unveiling IdeasTap Inspires, a national training programme for young people. Is this its largest co-ordinated project yet? “Oh, we’re not fazed by numbers,” White insists. “A lot of what we do is big-number activities, like NYT auditions and 24 Hour Plays. But yes, it is.”

IdeasTap Inspires will engage around 5,000 people in free workshops, masterclasses, training events and online resources across several artistic disciplines. The partner organisations delivering these ‘spas’, White says, “are probably the organisations where you go, ‘oh my god, I’d love to work with them’,” including Complicite, the RSC and longtime IdeasTap collaborators Hightide. “We want to give young people a chance to have a money-can’t-buy experience,” says White. “Tell them what they can’t learn in college and help them build resilience, feel clearer and more confident about where they want to work.’

Partner organisations in the programme are as nationally scattered as Ideastap’s members; spas will also be running at the Royal Exchange Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bristol Old Vic. Poppy Keeling, co-ordinator of Complicite’s Creative Learning Programme, was drawn to the collaboration for “a few reasons – the main one being that IdeasTap has such a huge membership and such fantastic nationwide reach that partnering with them means we can meet people with different backgrounds from across the country, people we might not otherwise get to work with.”

Spas will give applicants the opportunity to mirror companies’ practice. “What Complicite is looking for is people interested in making their own work,” White explains. “I’d say that’s very different from what the RSC is looking for, which is people that might be interesting for them to have in their shows.” Keeling elaborates: “The overall aim is to put together a dynamic young company including writer, director, designers and performers, who will work together with Complicite Associates to create a scratch show.”

The company “often gets to work with young performers, directors or designers,” Keeling says, “but we very rarely get the chance to work with them all together in a collaborative setting. This programme – which will see theatre-makers from across disciplines working together – feels really true to the spirit of Complicite’s work.” These spas, White explains, “go from a mass call-out, to a large number of people getting workshops, through to a much smaller group having a much deeper engagement, working with Complicite for two weeks. The RSC one will be a weekend at Stratford with a similar model.”

Meanwhile, Hightide is offering the opportunity for aspiring marketers and designers to “develop their craft and careers” at the company’s annual new writing festival in Halesworth in April. Artistic Director Steven Atkinson is putting together a team to produce Rising Tides, a series of climate change-themed plays debuting at the festival. “It’s an opportunity to have creative freedom,” says Atkinson. “They’re working as professionals but in a safe environment. New plays are always kind of risky because you don’t know if they’re going to be any good and can sometimes be difficult to produce, but in a well-established festival that has all of that mentoring and support around it, they’ll learn how to put a show on and have the opportunity to do it how they want to.”

Funding for the programme comes at a time when public finance is scarce and competition fierce. Education in this climate, White says delicately, can be “tricky. It’s often the area that you can raise money for out of everything in an arts organisation, however [departments] are always on the frontline, always under-served, I think.” I ask Keeling whether she feels under fire. “On the whole I think the education, outreach, access – whatever you choose to call it – sector is thriving.” In austerity, she suggests, “the arguments for community arts work, or arts education work, seem to speak louder to funders. This isn’t definitely something I think is a good thing – it comes with its own dangers and needs to be treated carefully – but it can be a bonus. Of course, as the field gets squeezed there are fewer opportunities for everything, so the pressure is definitely still there.” Under this pressure, Atkinson feels a heavy responsibility with Hightide, of “balancing artistic development with also actually putting shows on and making sure that you’re touring them and that audiences are seeing them.”

Spas are intended to provide young people with more than just a one-off experience. “I hope they’ll come out with a better sense of how to pursue their chosen path, and with new skills,” Keeling says. Or “they could give people a quicker idea that actually this isn’t for them,” considers White. “Like, if you go into a workshop and you’re asked to make a noise like an animal and crouch on all fours, and you think Christ almighty, I didn’t like that.” They’re also an opportunity to build lasting relationships with companies and practitioners. “I hope we’ll put together a company that makes a show so good we just have to tour it,” says Keeling. “But that’s up to the participants, I guess!”

More information about the Ideas Tap Inspires programme can be found on Ideas Tap’s website

Billy Barrett

Billy Barrett

Billy currently studies English and Theatre at Warwick University. Between reviewing and reading for his course, Billy writes, directs and acts in theatre. He tries to see everything in London, Warwick and beyond!

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