the Dragonfly journal

Teaching Drama: Theatre Reviews for GCSE and A Level

By Pete Talman

My ‘Stand and Deliver’ drama course set to run this summer focuses partly on theatre reviews which the AS course demands from your students. This is a fundamental part of the Key Stage 5 drama curriculum and whilst I will give guidance on how to promote students’ writing, the benefits of them experiencing an exciting theatre performance are unmatchable. Hand-in-hand with the advice I offer on my course, the impact on your drama lessons will be incredible. So much can be learned from an inspirational production and I’m going to give you an example of just how much of an effect a good show can have on its audience.

Last Saturday I went to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”. It was brilliant. The way the novel was adapted for the stage was extremely clever. The production used sound, light and movement to externalise Christopher’s locked-in condition of Asperger syndrome. Students would see how pace and continuity are essential when creating exciting theatre. They would learn how it is often the simplest of ideas that can be most effective – the use of a single torch in this show, for example. Above all, this show would demonstrate to them how stylised movement in their ensemble work can be incredibly effective.

Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett were responsible for the exceptional movement work in “Curious Incident”. I mention this because you can get Frantic Assembly into your school to do a physical theatre workshop with your students. It’s worth every penny and is pitched at a level suitable for both GCSE and AS students. If any of you saw “Beautiful Burnout” which recently toured extensively, you’ll know just how dynamic their work can be.

There’s an interesting version of “The Seagull” touring at present which is currently on-going at The Nuffield in Southampton. Bringing Chekhov to life is one of the most difficult aspect I’ve found of drama teaching, but this production really executes this well. Warning – this show contains oral sex and stuff (Chekhov?) but it has had good reviews!

I hope you find these suggestions worth while and that I see you on my Drama courses soon.