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Students will often experience their first live theatre performance through school, via a theatre trip or a visiting theatre company.
Whilst many theatres remain closed, however, drama teachers are adapting their delivery and helping to keep the spark of theatre alive, both in the classroom and when teaching remotely.
The National Theatre Collection, available on Bloomsbury Publishing’s Drama Online platform, provides a gateway to live theatre performance, with recordings of 30 world class productions that teachers can stream direct into their classrooms or share with students studying at home.
The Collection is free for all state schools and colleges UK-wide and comes with a range of accompanying learning resources. These include teaching guides, workshop ideas and rehearsal diaries to aid students’ understanding of play texts and theatre-making.
With over 3,000 state secondary schools currently registered, we asked drama teachers across the country how they’re using the Collection to give their students the best seats in the house.
LT: The NT Collection has been really helpful. It’s great that young people can watch quality theatre productions and learn about theatrical styles and techniques in the classroom.
EB: We’ve enjoyed watching the productions in school – they work as both an educational tool and an end of term treat.
GJ: Invaluable – it’s a priceless treasure that every teacher should be tapped into. It’s jam-packed with so many resources that help me with planning and exposing my students to a plethora of theatre and the arts.
LT: Y7 are watching Peter Pan and learning how to critique a production for the first time, whilst Y8 are learning about theatre history. Not only did they roar with laughter at One Man, Two Guvnors, it was also a perfect example of Commedia Del Arte, and helped them analyse what makes comedy successful.
ER: Our BTEC performing arts cohort have learnt about design, lighting and costume with Treasure Island, which has also helped with students’ knowledge and understanding of English literature, storytelling and creative writing skills.
GJ: We’ve been looking at stage design skills and technical aspects, such as lighting. The striking production of Treasure Island highlights the spectacle of what theatre can be, and everything that encompasses this.
LT: When you’re watching productions you can pause to offer explanations or raise questions, which wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
ER: It’s absolutely a great resource for drama teachers, especially since we’re finding it more and more costly to take students out to see live theatre.
GJ: It’s a priceless service, and so cross curricular – there’s something for everyone, including other subjects. The NT Collection has helped bridge strong links with our English department, particularly in A Level with A Streetcar Named Desire.
LT: There’s a great network of drama teachers, theatres and theatre companies on Twitter, all supporting each other with competitions and resources.
ER: We’ve adapted to teaching classes in base classrooms, in place of our usual studio spaces. We’ve had local theatre companies in, such as Odd Arts (oddarts.co.uk), which have led workshops and performances on knife crime. We’re managing to get students to experience theatre as practically as is physically possible.
GJ: I’ve been holding workshop-style lessons where I give students the autonomy to shape their own acting pathway. My Y9s are undertaking a performing arts industry project, where they’re given stimulus and delegate roles within the sector in groups to bring it to life!
Sarah Eastaff is secondary and further education programme manager at the National Theatre; to find out more, visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/learning or follow @NT_Schools.
The NT makes theatre for everyone, staging productions in London, on tour nationwide and worldwide and via digital broadcasts, while supporting creative education through nationwide learning programmes
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