The importance of creativity, of young people's inhibitions in social situations and the impact it can have on us as adults in our very public and presented projection of ourselves.
Coming to the end of the project we had some funds left over and we decided as a group to put it to good use and what better way to do that than a theatre trip for both the college students and the students from Earls High School. The show we went to see was A Midsummer Nights Dream at the Old Rep in Birmingham which linked in beautifully to the theme of our festival; Shakespeare. It was also a grand way for a lot of the students who were doing their Art's Awards to write about a piece of art/theatre they have seen that inspires them.
Most of the young people from Earls High School had never seen a piece of theatre before and the way in which they conducted themselves in the theatre was phenomenal. These young people responded in a way which the actors or directors intend their audiences to; with a visceral and natural response. The young people went on the journey of the play and allowing the emotions to dictate their responses so at times when comedy slapped you in the face, they belly laughed, and loud. In the quiet, intense moments, they were fixed on the performance in utter silence.
Members of the public came up to us and let us know that at first, they were sceptical about whether they would enjoy a performance with nearly 40 young people in the audience who could be quite riotous but were pleasantly surprised and put them at ease. A lot of people said that usually in a theatre they feel somewhat shy or embarrassed to respond vocally even if they want to due to this sheep mentality we get roped in to as adults in our professional lives and concerned about our 'image' or drawing attention to ourselves, or equally being worried that we are being disrespectful to the performers. The members of the public joined in, laughing and in turn had a positive domino effect on the performers too.
Knowing a lot of these children not only experienced the theatre for the first time, but saw a Shakespearean show that they were fixed on the whole time, were raving about after on the coach ride home and opened their arts awards books the first chance they got to write everything down was one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced.
This experience has taught me that as we go through our adult lives, working and dealing with all of our responsibilities that we can have fun. Breathe and enjoy all aspects of life, find humour in moments of stress and turmoil and thrive in finding some sort of balance. Its also taught me that this idea that Shakespeare isn't for young people, or a certain type of person who has not been exposed to it is also the very reason we think it. Because we aren't making things like this accessible, not only in terms of bringing it to areas with low arts engagement and cultural cold spots but teaching and inspiring youth and members of the public in a way that would mean to them, something that they can connect to.
Whether it's seeing a type of person on stage or behind the makings of it, whether it's in a certain style or whether it's simply communicating the words of the great playwright himself in a modern, relevant and meaningful way. The show that they went to see was a testament to that, these kids who struggle naturally even with a modern text and have never been to the theatre understood clearly what was happening, the relationships with the characters and the story clearly enough to relay that information and to be intrigued in studying Shakespeare further.
Moments like this bring me a sense of pride seeing that but it's also a shame that many in the arts think we shouldn't try.
I am someone who never enjoyed Shakespeare growing up, I struggled to understand it and getting into theatre everyone around me loved it and enjoyed it whether it was true or whether they were trying to fit into an ideology of what people expect you to like in this type of circle. Going through the industry and through this project in particular it has forced me to find ways to make Shakespeare fun and accessible and start understanding it and how I can relate it to my life or stories I am more familiar with. As a result, relaying that element of fun to those young people and inspiring them made me realise that Shakespeare, when done right, can be life changing.
- Aaron Belcher Resident Artist for Emerge Dudley 2019