Hay Festival

We’re a cultured bunch here on the LATE committee and we like to share our culture our ideas, culture and new found enthusiasms with you and also our students. Here is my (Myfanwy Marshall @Miff_) round up of the Hay Festival and how I’ve used some of the experiences in the class room this week.

Myths and Legendsmabinogoi

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favourite authors since I was about 11 and I read Coraline which I enjoyed and was spooked by in equal measures. When I heard that he was retelling the Norse mythology I was therefore extremely excited. Whilst Stephen Fry may have tried to steal Gaiman’s limelight at the session, I felt Gaiman’s story of Fenrir the giant wolf outstripped Fry’s amusing retelling of a Greek myth. Norse Gods is dark, mysterious and powerful whilst also being hugely entertaining. It’s perfect for younger readers (secondary school age I’d say) but has certainly captured my imagination too.

NorseMythology_Hardback_1473940163Also out at Hay was a new translation of the Mabinogi. Lesser known that Thor, Odin, Zeus and the Minotaur, the Celts have a strange, ethereal and Authurian set of myths all of their own. Matthew Francis has, according to my Welsh speaking grandmother, done a marvellous job of capturing the essence of the sometimes strange poetic language in his English translation. As a non-Welsh speaker who sits in London clinging to her Welsh roots I love it too and think it’s beautifully written.

In the classroom: I decided I wanted to mix up the Greek Myths SOW in my department so taught the story of Pwyll and Arawn to year 7s. In the story Pwyll, a hunter, steals the Prince of the Unworld’s trophy stag so as punishment must swap bodies with him for a year. During this time Pwyll has to defeat Arawn’s enemy for him before he can return. Though a seemingly happy ending, several of my female students pointed out that Arawn’s wife is rightly angry when he returns as he’s been ignoring her for the whole year- a woman caught up in the petty feuds of men…interesting starting point for a class discussion. I taught the story of Fenrir from Norse Gods too, leading to a brilliant discussion of hubris, pride, the value of friendship, power and fear. Both will be used as inspiration for the writing of our own myths.

Masculinity- Owen Sheers inspiresowen-sheers

It seems apt then after looking at those two myths which raise such interesting questions about masculinity, strength and power that I promote this link to Owen Sheers’ talk a Hay. He gave a truly thought provoking and intelligent talk on masculinity directly addressed to his daughters entitled ‘The men you will meet’. Really worth a listen and something that could be used in pastoral, political, RE, Philosophy and English classrooms. There are aspects of it relevant to all ages but generally speaking you should listen as I think it made me think about the men I know and the young men and women who I teach.

In his Q and A he talked at length about the men he’d worked with from all walks of life.

Link to the lecture

 

 

I see things…by Galia Melon

Galia is Lead practitioner for English in her school, a member of the LATE committee and is an avid theatre goer. Below she shares some of the theatre she’s loved recently and in future we’ll be posting about some of the other theatrical and cultural highlights for London English teachers. Please do comment if you’ve got any other ideas or recommendations. Personally I loved Rozencrantz and Guildenstern and am still really looking forward to Salome and the Ferryman later this month.

I see things…by Galia Melon

I’m really excited to be sharing my top theatre picks with you this month and I look forward to hearing your views too – you can comment below or follow me on twitter here: @galiamelon

So read on, and turn yourself into a regular Samuel Beckett with conversation starters like… “what is that unforgettable line?”

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard (The Old Vic) – playing until 6th May

What they say: Against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this mind-bending situation comedy sees two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz (Daniel Radcliffe) and Guildenstern (Joshua McGuire), take centre stage with David Haig as The Player. Increasingly out of their depth, the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of this iconic drama. In a literary hall of mirrors, Stoppard’s brilliantly funny, existential labyrinth sees us witness the ultimate identity crisis.

What I say: Existentialism at its finest here. It’s definitely a thinker, but beautifully performed and Radcliffe and McGuire have an electric chemistry. There is just the right amount of Shakespeare to keep a Bardolator like myself interested and this, alongside some lovely sets and costumes, make this a very enjoyable piece to watch.

See this if: you like a bit of puzzlement and humour when you see a play.

 

The Treatment by Martin Crimp (Almeida Theatre) – playing until 10th June

Mary_Stuart_website_1470x690-350x200What they say: New York. A film studio.  A young woman has an urgent story to tell. But here, people are products, movies are money and sex sells. And the rights to your life can be a dangerous commodity to exploit. Martin Crimp’s contemporary satire is directed by Lyndsey Turner, who returns to the Almeida following her award-winning production of Chimerica.

What I say: Power. Control. Blindness. Truth. A truly engaging play; still very fresh and seemingly timeless considering it’s about 20 years old. I loved the use of technology here – it was apt to use film considering the filmic content of the story and it didn’t jar at all. The performances from the whole company were fascinating, often verging on menacing.

See this if: you enjoy powerful pieces that comment on current social issues.

Salome by Yaël Farber (National Theatre) – playing until 15th July

What they say: The tale retold. The story has been told before, but never like this. An occupied desert nation. A radical from the wilderness on hunger strike. A girl whose mysterious dance will change the course of the world. This charged retelling turns the infamous biblical tale on its head, placing the girl we call Salomé at the centre of a revolution. Internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs) draws on multiple accounts to create her urgent, hypnotic production on the Olivier stage.salome_National_

What I say: Frustrating and beautiful in equal measure. This is an absolutely stunning production – the music, design, staging and choreography really push the boundaries of what the National can do. The opening sequence alone is worth going to see the whole play for. What a shame then that the script is so jarringly clunky! It really does the actors a disservice, though they do the best they can with what they’ve been given.

See this if: you value style over substance and are able to overlook cringe-worthy dialogue!

Woyzeck by Georg Buchner/Jack Thorne (Old Vic Theatre) – playing until 24th June

What they say: The multi-award-winning Jack Thorne (This is EnglandLet The Right One InHarry Potter and the Cursed Child) breathes new life into Woyzeck, one of the most extraordinary plays ever written. It’s 1980s Berlin. The Cold War rages and the world sits at a crossroads between Capitalism and Communism. On the border between East and West, a young soldier (John Boyega) and the love of his life are desperately trying to build a better future for their child. But the cost of escaping poverty is high in this searing tale of the people society leaves behind.

What I say: Grotesque. Uncomfortable. Sort of beautiful. The set and music design for this production are outstanding – I really like the choice the designers made to show the world through Woyzeck’s eyes, where things become less and less trustworthy and it all feels a little like it’s going to fall in at any moment. The performances, while engaging, were for me a little too much like watching ‘acting’ rather than real people, which is maybe what a play like this needs in order to really hit home. Certainly worth a watch though.

See this if: you like to feel moderately uncomfortable and have a thing for ‘heightened’ acting.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner (National Theatre) – playing until 19th August

angelsinamerica_webassets_thumb_0What they say: America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell. The cast includes Andrew Garfield playing Prior Walter, Denise Gough playing Harper Pitt, Nathan Lane playing Roy Cohn, James McArdle playing Louis Ironson and Russell Tovey playing Joe Pitt.

What I say: 7 hours and 40 mins. A marathon of suffering and joy. What I love most about this play is that it’s not afraid of the ridiculous, which is vital to get through this slog of a piece. How anyone can write a play this funny about a subject matter so devastating is beyond me. Watching the pain and suffering of these characters is at times beyond uncomfortable and yet impossible to turn away from. Performances by the entire company are phenomenal, including Russell Tovey, Nathan Lane, Denise Gough, James McArdle and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett but the highlight has to be Andrew Garfield, whose luminous performance as Prior is captivatingly magical. Alongside classically stunning National Theatre design, this production is truly once in a lifetime and this performance, for me, was one that I will remember and treasure forever.

See this if: you can get a ticket! There are no other reasons not to see this!

 

 

Seeing things…

At Late we think it’s a great idea to make the most of London and her resources. In the last few posts I’ve mostly talked about how we can use it in our teaching and with our students but of course we should be using it ourselves too. Galia is a member of the LATE committee and is an avid theatre goer. Below she shares some of the theatre she’s loved recently and in future we’ll be posting about some of the other theatrical and cultural highlights for London English teachers. Please do comment if you’ve got any other ideas or recommendations.

I See Things by Galia Admoni

I’m a Lead Practitioner at a school in North London and I see things. Not dead people or anything. Theatre, mostly. I’ve lived in London my whole life and I’ve been lucky enough to have visited lots of theatres across the city over the years, however since becoming a teacher the visits have become more and more frequent. I think I might have a problem actually. I’m really excited to be sharing my top theatre picks with you and I look forward to hearing your views too – you can comment below or follow me on twitter here: @galiamelon

So read on, and turn yourself into a regular Samuel Beckett with conversation starters like… “what is that unforgettable line?”

My London theatre highlights for April 2017

Consent by Nina Raine (National Theatre) – playing until 17th May 2017

Image result for consent national theatre

What they say: Why is Justice blind? Is she impartial? Or is she blinkered? Friends take opposing briefs in a rape case. The key witness is a woman whose life seems a world away from theirs. At home, their own lives begin to unravel as every version of the truth is challenged. Consent, Nina Raine’s powerful, painful, funny play sifts the evidence from every side and puts justice herself in the dock.

What I say: ‘Painfully funny’, this is a beautifully acted piece of drama that succeeds elegantly in making the political, personal. The dialogue is fast-paced, holding a mirror up to the intelligent humour and terrifying flaws embedded within the modern legal system. Some of the characters, at times, are truly abhorrent, and yet Raine’s considered character exploration means that they also seem so very human, so very complex and all illicit a measure of sympathy from the audience, in surprising and affecting ways. Nina Raine is definitely a writer that I’ll be looking out for in the future.

See this if: you are interested in how societies’ ‘big questions’ actually impact on people’s everyday lives; you are open to seeing something that might challenge your views and you are comfortable with laughing at what some may deem ‘inappropriate’!

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (National Theatre) – playing until 13th May 2017

Image result for twelfth night national theatre

What they say: A ship is wrecked on the rocks. Viola is washed ashore but her twin brother Sebastian is lost. Determined to survive on her own, she steps out to explore a new land. So begins a whirlwind of mistaken identity and unrequited love. The nearby households of Olivia and Orsino are overrun with passion. Even Olivia’s upright housekeeper Malvolia is swept up in the madness. Where music is the food of love, and nobody is quite what they seem, anything proves possible. Simon Godwin directs this joyous new production with Tamsin Greig as a transformed Malvolia.

What I say: As a confirmed Bardolator, it’s unsurprising that I loved this play. What is perhaps surprising however is that so has everyone else I know who has seen it – it’s been an all-out-smash! Tamsin Greig brings a spicy, yet sympathetic flavour to Malvolia; in fact the entire company dazzle in this raucous and beautifully designed piece. The ‘vintage’ feel of the design is really appealing to watch and Shakespeare’s language never fails to impress, whether touching or vulgar!

See this if: you want a feel good, easy watch, but still enjoy the challenge and intricacies of a full length Jacobean comedy.

Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino (National Theatre) – playing until 6th June 2017

Image result for ugly lies the bone

What they say: ‘Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone; beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own.’ After three tours in Afghanistan, Jess finally returns to Florida. In a small town on the Space Coast, as the final shuttle is about to launch, Jess must confront her scars – and a home that may have changed even more than her. Experimenting with a pioneering virtual reality therapy, she builds a breathtaking new world where she can escape her pain. There, she begins to restore her relationships, her life and, slowly, herself. Award-winning American playwright Lindsey Ferrentino makes her UK debut with this honest and funny new drama, directed by Inghu Rubasingham (The Motherf**ker with the Hat).

What I Say: A beautifully subtle yet powerful examination of some incredibly relevant, contemporary issues, through the lens of one family’s struggles. High concept design and a heartbreaking performance from all, flecked with touching comedy to keep it all feeling so, so human. Ralf Little and Kris Marshall’s performances are both highlights.

See this if: you like theatre that addresses up-to-date issues.

My Country; a work in progress in the words of people across the UK and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (National Theatre) – on tour until July 2017

Image result for my country a work in progress

What they say: Britannia calls a meeting to listen to her people. Caledonia, Cymru, East Midlands, North East, Northern Ireland and the South West bring the voices of their regions. The debate is passionate, the darts are sharp, stereotypes nailed and opinions divided. Can there ever be a United Kingdom? In the days following the Brexit vote, a team from the National Theatre spoke to people nationwide, aged 9 to 97, to hear their views on the country we call home. In a series of deeply personal interviews, they heard opinions that were honest, emotional, funny, and sometimes extreme. These real testimonials are interwoven with speeches from party leaders of the time in this new play by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, and director Rufus Norris.

What I say: The poetry of Carol Ann Duffy is a melody that sings mellifluously above the ‘human music’ of this piece. The audience well and truly performed the ‘sacrament of listening’ throughout the performance. I have never experienced verbatim theatre in the flesh before and it was a visceral and emotionally charged occasion. And you couldn’t really get more relevant! Heartbreakingly funny too – because we all have to live together through the consequences of the decisions that we made for this country – for better or worse. Listening to the voices in this play though, helps me to feel like it’s not all doom and gloom. Real people should be listened to more often – if anything, that’s what this piece is a testament to.

See this if: you have an interest in people; you’re not afraid to have your views challenged and you love listening to gorgeously poetic language.