Children from Middleton and Peasenhall primary schools gathered at The Bell Green, Middleton on October 6th for a final dress rehearsal before their public performance of ‘Shakespeare and the Sea’ to an enthusiastic audience at the MAFAFAM Festival.
Simon Bridge had been working with the children, whose ages ranged from 4 to 11, since early September, linking words and action from ‘The Tempest’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Pericles’ with a traditional sea-shanty. Some of the children had been working in their classrooms on the story of ‘The Tempest’ and also worked on the performance with their teachers outside of our weekly rehearsals.
Not all of the children were able to be at MAFAFAM, but everyone worked throughout the rehearsal period with great commitment and enthusiasm. This gave them time to add more depth and detail to the action, which told of a witch’s curse on a sailor bound for Aleppo, a magical storm at sea, a pirate raid and the difficulties of fishermen trying to land a catch which turned out to be “a rusty armour” (or, in our performance, an old dustbin lid!)
As well as learning lines of their own, the youngest children used musical instruments and other props to create the sounds and atmosphere of the storm from the ‘Tempest’, while everyone put everything they had into the sea-shanty ‘Weigh Haul Away’.
Simon had been working with each of the three classes at the school separately up until the last rehearsal, just the day before the performance, each class working on its own section of the show. Amazingly, the children were keen to learn new pieces of text and action right up to that last rehearsal, when they all came together to fuse the three elements into one performance.
And what a performance it was! Costumed as pirates, sailors and even as seagulls, the children delighted audience members, teachers and the MAFAFAM organisers so much that the school organised a second performance for parents at Middleton School’s assembly the following Friday.
The teachers at both schools gave impressive support to Simon’s work with the children, and the children themselves are to be congratulated for their exceptional hard work and enthusiasm.
The Suffolk Herring Festival is pleased to have sponsored this project, which obviously gave local children a much greater awareness of the sea and its bounty, as well as giving everyone involved a lot of fun.