A Merchant of Venice project with Shakespeare in Italy November / December 2021
(Testimonial from Hannah Jeens, Head of English, St Marylebone C of E School, London W1)
I feel extremely fortunate to have had the experience provided to us with the outreach programme based around the production “A Merchant of Venice”. At every turn, they offered us more than we expected and were accommodating of changes necessitated by school logistics, in this very challenging time.
Following lockdowns and remote learning, providing enrichment opportunities beyond the classroom has felt like one of our more pressing educational responsibilities and needs. We were consequently delighted when the company were able to offer us a workshop in school for every single student in our Year 8 cohort, free tickets to a performance of a play we were studying, free programmes and a question-and-answer session with the actors. It was an incredible opportunity for our students; for many it was their first trip to a theatre and opened their eyes to new possibilities of learning.
They were particularly thrilled by the interactions with the actors. This was evident by the wide range of questions they asked during the question-and-answer session. They were keen to know all sorts of things both about being an actor and about the text itself, which is an experience they could never have realised in the classroom alone. The students also loved the fact that the actress playing Portia took part in their workshop. Even though I am sure their English teachers could have answered the same questions about Portia, it was much more interesting for them to speak to an actor!
I was very interested to see how the students lapped up the information they got from their workshops. I am grateful to Nikki Pearson for her extensive research and the depth of thought that went into the material. The students in my class in particular were so interested in the ways dogs were perceived in Elizabethan England, and it was thrilling to see them using this information to support their points about Shylock’s language both in class discussion and later on in their written work. Of course, not only did this enhance their English and drama studies but opened their minds to living history and hopefully other subject teachers will also gained benefits from these activities.
Teaching The Merchant of Venice in Year 8 is a very rewarding and interesting unit, but it was definitely greatly enhanced this year by the experiences provided by Shakespeare in Italy. We only study four scenes of the play in class, as our teaching is focused on the interaction between Shylock and Antonio. It was fantastic for the students to then be able to see the rest of the play live (in a helpfully abridged version), and so enrich their understanding of how the part they know so well connects to the rest of the text.
I would like to thank the company for their generosity with their time and expertise, and for bringing Shakespeare to life so vividly, both as a text and as a part of the theatrical profession, for our students who have been starved of such experiences in recent years.
Here is a small selection of what the students had to say:
"It was very interesting to see how the actors viewed their characters. It was a very fun experience." (L)
"I liked how they interpreted the play in their own way and modernised it" (A)
"I really liked how they made every scene very clear and it helped me understand how the characters were feeling" (E)
"The workshop was really interactive and it was a fun way to learn the story" (C)
"I really liked the show and it was really fun to watch and see the actors play their parts so well" (La)
"The workshop was a great way to get more knowledge about the play and the language" (H)
"I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the actors in the workshop. We had an inside view on what her character was really like" (K)
"I enjoyed seeing the play as it helped my understanding of the language to visualise it." (B)
"I loved the fact that we got to meet the actors at the end of the show and ask them questions about their daily life and their parts in the show." (S)
All of the above shows how the students “liked” the different methodology of learning and we are positive this experience will filter through into their school work.
Please see our Safeguarding Policy /Portals/0/safeguarding%20policy%20.docx
We can't recommend Shakespeare in Italy workshops with Mary Chater highly enough. Our Year 9 students were on their feet, working with real understanding, focus and energy throughout. Thank you! Kate Ashdown, Head of English, Brighton Girls ( Girls Public Day School Trust)
The workshop was absolutely excellent and surpassed my expectations. All the Year 5 children were engaged and participated well. The play was “The Merchant of Venice” and the staff helped the children understand the play fantastically. The children were taught they can do absolutely anything- act, dance and work as part of a team! We would like to thank you very much for a fantastic drama day! Miss R Choudhary, teacher at Bishop Creighton Academy Primary school, Peterborough