Here at Novel English we celebrated the coming of autumn with a course designed all around Shakespeare’s ‘unlucky’ play… (for those of you who dare to speak it, Macbeth!) The course began with an evening activity of discussing the famous symbol of the Tudor Rose and the children decorating the front of their notebooks with print outs of Tudor designs. On the second day the course focused on Act One of the play and we set off to the Goonhilly Downs (the nearest thing we have to the wild Heath!) to rehearse and discuss scenes; the morning was followed up with a lunch of homemade cornish pasties, kindly made for us by our neighbouring farmer. Once all pasties had been eaten, we returned to Macbeth: the children writing a letter from Lady Macbeth to her husband, using traditional Shakespearian quills (made out of owl, goose, pheasant and crow feathers) and green ink.
Onto day three, and we decided to concentrate on the complex characters of Duncan and Banquo; first of all, there were daggers to make, crowns to forge and a goblet for the poisoned wine to design. The children had a creative time making these essential props, as well as using some fake blood (purchased for the event at the Globe Theatre in London). Once the children had made, tried out and practised with the vital props, we set about rehearsing the banquet and chamber scenes. The performance was held in the Novel English dormitory and was acted superbly; the blood left dripping from the dagger and left behind on poor King Duncan’s murdered throat looked most impressive! The tortuous assassination of heroic Banquo was then acted out in a nearby woodland.
The blood-curdling did not stop there, as it was on to day four and the acting out of the Banquet Scene and the arrival of the ghost of Banquo- heralding doom for Macbeth! Then it was time for some potion brewing and magic making; the two caldrons appeared and names and recipes planned and executed! Once the potions had been bottled and the four witches (including the high witch, Hecate) and Macbeth were well rehearsed, it was time to don witch-like garbs and face paints and to summon the apparitions! This was done by the roaring bonfire, as magic always should be!
On day five of the course, we improvised scenes and performed them for each other: Lady Macbeth sleep walking and dying and the coming of Birnam Wood, walking over the hill into battle (with branches and leaves held high!), and finally the last fight between Macbeth and Macduff, ending of course with Macbeth’s demise!
Throughout the course, the children participated in less blood-fuelled activities too, such as a moonlit walk, a midnight feast (with a magic show designed and executed by the children themselves) and various drawing and writing exercises based around the play and Master Shakespeare himself! Most enthusiastically received was the colourful timeline about Shakespeare and his plays.
The course participants also wrote and rehearsed their own play, called Changing; this was performed for all of us at Novel English and also to some of the parents when they arrived for pick-up time on the last day.
From all of us at Novel English, we would like to thank all who came and helped make the course such a success, as well as wishing you all a happy autumn and happy Sambain!