Why we need to get kids into Shakespeare in Primary School

We at Loony Literature headed up to Hull Truck Theatre last week to see the RSC perform The Famous Victories of Henry V – this is a play, for kids, that brings together all the exciting moments of three plays – Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V.

We need more of this

Basically, we need more of this – it is that simple. We have mentioned before that some teenagers can spend more than three years getting a GSCE grade C in English Language which includes a Shakespeare play. This is because they study it for two years at school but if do not get a C or above, they have to do it again.

We have also said to anyone who will listen that kids need to be introduced in a fun manner to Shakespeare in primary school not in secondary school. By the time they study a play at secondary school they need to be relaxed about The Bard. The Famous Victories of Henry V by the RSC was everything and more than we could have wished for.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Simon Yadoo as Sir John Falstaff in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

The cast was made up of young actors apart from the extra talented  Simon Yadoo who played Falstaff/Henry V. The energy of the players was electric as the young actors went among the audience before the play started making sure that they knew what the plot was.

The name of the game at this event was audience participation – those actors worked that audience as if they were back in Elizabethan England. There were props handed out to some of the children and they had to give them to certain characters during the play.

The audience were taught a song about Falstaff’s wine which everyone sang with vigour while waving their arms about. This was obviously a winner as a group of girls sang it loudly in the lavatory after the performance.

A young boy of about eight sat behind us and he had to stand up and shout. He was truly earnest and we were certain that that little boy would never forget that moment all his life. His eyes showed that.

We want them to laugh until their sides ache

The RSC have also taken this production into some schools and we need more of this for our country’s children. Shakespeare is meant to be performed; this is the second item that we need for kids. We need them to experience crafted actors, like Martin Bassindale who played Henry V, bringing the characters to life. We want them to laugh until their sides ache like they did at this production when Mistress Quickly, played by Daniel Abbott, shook his bosom at them.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

Dale Mathurin as John, Martin Bassindale as Prince Hall, Daniel Abbott as Mistress Quickly and Nicholas Gerard-Martin as Dericke in The Famous Victories of Henry V. Photo by Richard Lakos.

When kids have experienced this they will begin to understand what the Bard is all about. One teacher said that before the RSC visited their school, they used to have the ‘collective groan’ when Shakespeare was mentioned but now there was excitement in the air.

Schools need to go to more theatre trips and more theatre companies need to be working with them, hand in hand. We don’t only want the kids of our country being introduced to Shakespeare in this manner, we want them to see Frankenstein making his monster and Dr Jekyll transforming into Mr Hyde.

We have a world famous literary heritage

As with everything, a major problem is budget. We are not experts on these matters but surely putting money into the problem when kids are in primary school would balance out all those English GSCEs that teenagers are resitting around the country. We are talking hundreds of thousands of resits here, not a mere few.

We have a world famous literary heritage and it is only when we make our kids proud of it will the level of GCSE resits drop.

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17 Comments

Filed under Education, Exciting Excursions, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Inspiration and Us, Shakespeare Diary, theatre in education

17 responses to “Why we need to get kids into Shakespeare in Primary School

  1. Grace Webb

    I’m 18 and love Shakespeare, however, there really is a problem with the way it is taught in schools. I hated the way Shakespeare was taught to me; apathetic classmates reading aloud, sat down in an English classroom. Due to the way it was taught I didn’t appreciate Shakespearean plays until a few years ago on a GCSE drama trip to the Globe to see Much Ado About Nothing in heavy rain – the rain made it even more enjoyable! I feel children and teenagers need to be taught Shakespeare in English Lit/lang to go deeper into the subject matter, but before that they need to be taught to love Shakespeare.

  2. Grace Webb

    Reblogged this on University Life and commented:
    There is a real problem with way we are introduced to Shakespeare in schools. Shakespeare, like so many other playwrights/writers/poets, probably never dreamed that his works would be part of the syllabus. We risk making Shakespeare part of school, instead of part of life.

  3. This is such a great post. It reminds me of how I was introduced to Shakespeare in school. The best part was definitely going to the theatre to watch the plays – my favourite had to be seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the open air theatre in Regent’s Park, closely followed by A Comedy of Errors. However, for some reason, these weren’t actually the plays we studied.

  4. A brilliant inspiring post – I so agree. x

  5. Have you read “Shakespeare Saved My Life?” It’s about a woman who taught Shakespeare to prisoners! Nice blog, by the way. Followed!

  6. You should write a book about the Bard’s plays in the vein of “Horrible Histories”, you’d be so great at that and who knows, Early Readers might finally get to see this country’s great literary heritage as it should be seen.

  7. Neridah ROGERS

    Bravo!

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