Year 10 pupils from Saint Paul’s were recently visited by staff and students from UCEN Manchester to take part in a Shakespeare workshop focusing on Macbeth as part of the Uni:Connect project with Greater Manchester Higher.
A team of eight talented student actors from UCEN Manchester’s The Arden School of Theatre (Northern School of Dramatic Arts) were invited into school to perform Shakespeare’s Macbeth accompanied by Arden’s Devising Director, Alan French, and Nawshin Khan, Outreach Coordinator from GM Higher.
Over 50 students aged 14-15 watched the live performance and took part in a fun and stimulating two-hour drama workshop led by the UCEN students. Students have begun studying the famous Shakespearean tragedy this term as part of their English Literature GCSE and were able to contribute insightful comments and questions which impressed the team.
The event was fully funded by GM Higher – a collaborative local network working in partnership with the national Uni Connect programme – which aims to raise the aspirations of young people in Greater Manchester and promote and facilitate access to higher education.
Ms Laura Fannon, English teacher, said: “This was such a fantastic learning experience for our Year 10s as they approach their English Literature GCSE exams next year. Pupils demonstrated their own knowledge and insights into the play and were able to explore higher level critical thinking during the session, questioning and evaluating the interpretations of characters and events and forming ideas around the universal messages of the play, considering the impacts of these in a Jacobean and modern context. The UCEN actors were highly impressive performers and easily able to engage our pupils in the play, making the, at times, complex language accessible through recaps and questioning; the discussions around characterisation and context were particularly useful.
“Witnessing Macbeth performed in such a close proximity by talented actors who actively question them as an audience was an invaluable and inspiring experience. Our pupils were overwhelmingly impressed with the event; not only have they said that they enjoyed the performances but many have agreed that it greatly enhanced their understanding of the text and we have had several expressing an interest in pursuing careers in performing arts. The performances from the UCEN students were thoroughly engaging, even riveting at times, and staff were highly impressed by the excellent quality of the acting. The Banquo’s Ghost and the final fight scene were particular highlights for many pupils and it’s lovely to see so many beginning to take interest in the theatre and live performances.”
“It was a very inspiring and uplifting event where the pupils were able to learn about Shakespeare’s themes, styles and techniques,” explained Mrs Maria Evans, Head of English, at Saint Paul’s. “The workshop allowed the pupils to enhance their appreciation of the extraordinary range and richness of Macbeth.”
Mrs Evans added: “Taking part in workshops such as this is important for our pupils to develop their interest in English. It was an extremely engaging event which our students thoroughly enjoyed; it gave them time to focus on the meaning of the play and the language and style used to express Shakespeare’s feelings. The Year 10 pupils were able to expand their critical interpretation skills whilst gaining more understanding of the important themes which run throughout Macbeth.”
Mr Mike Whiteside, Deputy Headteacher, added: “It was a day full of energy, enjoyment and exploration! Events like these provide a very valuable experience for our students and enhance the learning curriculum. Thank you to UCEN and Greater Manchester Higher, it was a very successful event with some students complaining when the session was over – it certainly sparked their enthusiasm!”