On the 26th of April SWA year 11 students had an opportunity to see a live broadcast of Macbeth from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In a very busy and hardworking school, there is inevitably a great deal of news to celebrate and a great many events to advertise and acknowledge.
As part of preparation for the GCSE English literature exams, Smith’s Wood Academy organised a theatre experience for our year 11 students, where students could watch a live broadcast of the play, scrutinise the characters’ emotions and enhance their knowledge of the plot. Alongside the play, the RSC provided opportunities for their actors to talk about their performance and explain different layers of the production.
Shakespeare’s tragedy of ambition and lust for power was given a fresh, intense and bold interpretation. Some of the students ( and staff!) were surprised to see the witches have been played by the three little girls, or the throne looking like a black leather chair, and the characters were in modern dress, yet this did not distract our exemplary cohort of students from focusing on Shakespeare’s themes of betrayal and loyalty, ambition and violence.
“It helped me understand the audience‘s reaction better”, said one of the students. Indeed, many students felt unsettled by the scenes like Macbeth’s “the dagger” soliloquy or his inability to say ‘amen’ after the murder of King Duncan, or the scene where Macduff grieves for his slaughtered family. This proved to be a great opportunity for our students to improve their ability to read the emotions of others and interpret Shakespeare’s language.
Another student said that she liked the porter (“Knock, Knock! Who is there?”) best. A lot of students were obviously receptive to this character and the dark comedy certainly added an interesting layer to the production.
It was impressive to observe the students’ level of engagement with the whole experience, and a privilege for all to see such a superb performance.
Without a doubt, it was a great success for the students and a real boost to their GCSE preparation; but just as importantly it clearly left many of them with a lasting and very positive experience of Shakespeare.