On the night of our arrival at the beautifully remote and relaxing Tulia, we had a quick chat with Furaha regarding the progress made while working with the children on ‘The Jungle Book’ script.
It became apparent that although the children knew their lines, there was work to be done on their understanding of language, characters, emotions and acting. Therefore, bringing the characters to life would be our main focus in the planning of the workshops.
We led the morning session with a simple name game asking the children to think of adjectives which describe their personality; when they shared their names and adjectives with the group, we requested that they ‘act’ to demonstrate the chosen adjective ‘jumping Jefferson’ for example JUMPED, excited Esther acted EXCITED and so on.
We developed this further with a second EAL activity, this time the children worked in pairs and introduced their partner to the rest of the group by ‘acting’ and impersonating their partner, taking on mannerisms and characteristics of one another’s personalities.
The third language game focused on the area in which the children live. Penny and I told the children mythical legends and stories of Leprechauns in Ireland and the Soucouyent in Trinidad, and in response they told us a story of a beloved Kilifi magician and his amazing tricks, as well as other tales of their likes and dislikes regarding Kilifi. These activities and the sharing of cultural stories helped to build the children’s language skills and understanding of adjectives, emotions and descriptive narratives.
Following a short break of light refreshments, we were then ready to look at the Jungle Book script. While the children delivered their lines with clarity and articulation they were somewhat inanimate. We reflected on the morning activities and asked the children to think of adjectives to describe the jungle book characters; as they had described themselves and their partners earlier in the morning…. What kind of an animal is Shere-Khan? we asked, is he kind, friendly…?
The children responded with ‘fierce’ frightening’ ‘intimidating’, ‘scary’, ‘cruel’, ‘angry’.
We went through each of the characters in this way and the children applied the adjectives and descriptive narratives from the morning session to our discussion of the characters in The Jungle Book. In this way; we worked towards bringing the lines to life and injecting them with emotion, character and personification.
Showing the children some clips of scenes from The Jungle Book movie really helped with this character analysis and understanding. We worked through the first three scenes successfully. The resilience, enthusiasm and speed with which the children learned and modified their delivery was an impressive joy to behold!
In the afternoon, Penny moved towards closing the day with a focus on the importance of ‘reacting’ in acting and ‘stage presence’ explaining that this is demonstrated not only via individual roles, but the reactions of everyone else in a particular scene to the presence of each of the characters. The children who played the monkeys practiced cowering with fear in response to Shere-Khan’s presence and responding in a happy, relaxed manner to Baloo’s cool and playful laid-back nature.
Exercises on focus and trust, demonstrated how actors must rely on, interact and collaborate with each other and avoid distractions from the audience and the surrounding environment to deliver the play successfully. These exercises were thoroughly enjoyed by the children and turned into a competitive and playful sport.
As they lead one another blindly around the field, the children laughed with enjoyment while they built trust in us and each other.
Some time in the day was devoted to learning the stage positions for flow and ease of direction, center, down-stage, stage-left and so on. The children enjoyed the challenge of being asked to position themselves in the correct place after learning the terms and again, they impressed us with the ease and speed at which they gathered this new information.
Pennie’s passionate and energetic delivery style while teaching stage-craft; a variety of trust exercises and lessons in “reacting” to each other’s characters ensured that the children really enjoyed the learning process. She made it clear to them that ‘Theatre is Life’ and they could apply what they had learned today to real life and their school setting for example. She also did some work on posture with the children and suggested they be mindful of how they carry themselves and how people look at and perceive them. They were encouraged to be confident and have a voice.
During the debriefing activity each child shared something new they had learned; the list was long and featured things like adjectives, how to trust, myths about Ireland and Trinidad, stage positions, how to display emotions, the need to act, and voice projection… to name but a few.
Overall, day one was a huge SUCCESS and we really did achieve a lot! The children have come on leaps and bounds and are without a doubt enthusiastic, encourageable, responsive and a joy to work with!