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Year 9 dreams of toil and trouble

Last week’s Year 9 Drama Showcase of Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth at the Independent Theatre was a riot of ricocheting relationships and murderous toil and trouble.

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From the humour and passion of Midsummer Night’s Dream to the murderous thane and the wicked witches of Macbeth, Ms Oakley and Mr Colyer’s Year 9 Drama students put on an incredible performance, bringing the Bard to life in vivid and imaginative ways.

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As part of their preparations for the Showcase, the students enjoyed an all-day incursion with actors from Sydney theatre company, Sport for Jove. Together, they enacted, dissected and discussed their chosen scenes and characters. This gave the students an opportunity to ask lots of questions and unlock the different themes, structure, ambiguities and stories in their scene, as well as exploring their dramatic power.

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The actors gave the students some great tips about using dynamic movement and stillness to create dramatic tension. Rather than just waiting for their lines, they told them to actively listen, so they remained engaged even when they were not speaking. They also suggested that they deliver their lines to someone in the audience in order to establish an authentic sense of connection. Above all, the actors stressed that theatre is live so things can go wrong and to always remember the ABCDE of theatre: accept, breathe, centre yourself, decide and engage.

Amelie said, “When we were told that we were performing Shakespeare in Term 4 to an audience that wasn’t our classmates, I have to admit we felt a little daunted and, dare I say, a bit intimidated by the subject matter! The rehearsal process for A Midsummer Night’s Dream included challenges that were a complete change from anything we had done throughout the year, both in terms of the Shakespearean language and performance style.

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During the rehearsal period, to combat the fact that we felt disconnected from the words of the play (in that we didn’t really understand them), our teacher advised us to write out a modern translation, which really helped us bring more depth to our scenes. After learning a couple of fundamentals for how Shakespeare structured his writing, combined with an awareness of the rhyme schemes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it seemed a lot easier and more achievable.

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We were often encouraged to reflect on how our scenes were taking shape, which really helped us to improve in the long run. Towards the end, when assessments were on the horizon, both Drama classes had the pleasure of having an actor from the theatre company Sport For Jove to come and help us finetune our scenes. It helped a lot hearing from the actors who do this for a living and their guidance really inspired us to commit emotionally to our scenes.

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After we had all learned our lines thoroughly and memorised our blocking, it was time to get down to business by rehearsing our scenes in order. I found this part especially rewarding, as not only was I rehearsing my own scene and receiving feedback, but I was also learning from how all the other girls in my class performed their scenes. You can tell how rigorously we rehearsed by the fact that we all know each other’s lines!

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Finally, when everything was moved to the theatre and we had costumes and lights and makeup, this thing that we had been rehearsing was right there in front of us. The colourful production we had created is what made all of the rehearsal we put in worthwhile and ultimately helped us to truly develop as performers.”

Francesca said, “Shakespeare in Performance is our final and most exhilarating unit of Year 9 Drama. It incorporates a variety of skills that we have learned throughout the year and the first performance was held in Wenona’s very own Independent Theatre.

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My class was tasked with Shakespeare’s Scottish play, Macbeth, and we were both intrigued and utterly dazzled by the language. To get a feel and a further understanding for the play, we dived headfirst into researching anything and everything about Elizabethan theatre that would be of benefit to the task at hand.

Even though there isn’t a major language barrier between Elizabethan English and modern English, many girls in the class were finding it rather difficult grappling with the difference. To overcome this minor bump in the road, we used both online and hardcopy resources to obtain two scripts, one translated into modern English and one in the original Elizabethan form.

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Prepping for our performances, we split up into small groups or pairs, directing and creating contemporary versions of the play. This enhanced our ability to instinctively use the key elements of drama. Throughout this process we learnt how to block, use spacing, tension, and facial and body language to bring the scenes to life.

A highlight was a school incursion with the theatre company, Sport for Jove. They taught us to use positioning on stage and vocal expression to better engage the audience. This has made a great difference to our ability to express ourselves.

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A lot of work went into preparing for our performance. In the run up to the show, we had both a technical rehearsal and a full-dress rehearsal.

I would like to thank the production crew, headed by Ms Jolly, who staged and lit the set for a thrilling and engaging experience. Thanks also to Head of Drama, Ms Crittle for providing the costumes for the show and helping to bring the play to life.

We were all thrilled, and nervous to showcase extracts from ‘the Scottish play’ to our parents and teachers. And we hope our dedication and hard work paid off.”

Well done to Ms Oakley, Mr Colyer, Ms Crittle and all of Year 9 Drama. It was a fantastic performance.

In the words of Puck, “If we shadows have offended / Think but this, and all is mended, / That you have but slumbered here / While these visions did appear.”

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