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Stars launch RSC Homework Help

Today Tamsin Greig, Noma Dumezweni and Patrick Stewart launch RSC Homework Help – the chance for UK students to get RSC actors to help unlock Shakespeare’s plays.

SEE VIDEO: Actors Tamsin Greig and Noma Dumezweni ask students for their questions

Paapa Essiedu in Hamlet. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Hands up if you have kids studying Shakespeare?

Launching today (Mon Apr 27), with a personal message from RSC Acting Alumni Tamsin Greig, Patrick Stewart and Noma Dumezweni, the RSC’s  Homework Help initiative gives young people everywhere the opportunity to pose questions about Shakespeare and drama studies to working actors and former stars who’ve performed on the Stratford-upon-Avon stage.

Actors responding to questions and offering top tips on how to tackle the language include David Bradley – star of the Harry Potter film series, Doctor Who and Broadchurch star David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu (above) who played the title role of Hamlet in Simon Godwin’s 2016 production for the RSC (now available on BBC 4 iPlayer) and RSC Associate Artists Niamh Cusack and Charlotte Arrowsmith, who recently made RSC history as the first deaf actor to understudy a hearing role in Justin Audibert’s 2019 production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Those wishing to ask questions are invited to email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk, or share their questions using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sun May 10. A selection of video or written answers from RSC actors will be shared via the RSC website from May 11 to coincide with the first BBC Bitesize Teaching Shakespeare week which will focus on Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

Artistic Director Gregory Doran said: “Although the RSC is in lockdown and operating with a skeleton team, it is important that we continue to offer support to students, families and teachers across the country.

“To help support this work, we are asking people to consider making a donation to our home learning programme. We understand it is a difficult time for many people. However, the impact of school closures means that every gift will make a very real difference to thousands of young people. To make a gift go to rsc.org.uk/support/keepyourrschomeeducating. We also encourage you to do anything you can to support your local theatre wherever it is in the country, helping ensure it can continue to share great work with its audiences.

HOME-LEARNING WITH THE RSC

Christopher Eccleston in Macbeth, 2018, RSC. Photo by Richard Davenport.

Coinciding with the new summer school term, the RSC will also play host to a Live Lesson of Macbeth on YouTube between 11am-12pm on Tues April 28. Students, teachers and parents across the UK will get the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of the 2018 production directed by Polly Findlay and starring Chris Eccleston and Niamh Cusack as Lord and Lady Macbeth.  They will see first-hand how the acting company and creative team approached key sections of the play and why certain decisions were made.

Suitable for KS2 – KS4, the live lesson will be accompanied by a supporting Q & A with actor Niamh Cusack and Assistant Director Peter Bradley, focusing on key speeches from Act 1, Scene 5 and the role of Lady Macbeth. After the lesson, RSC actors Joseph Arkley, Edward Bennett, Niamh Cusack and Laura Elsworthy will be on hand to answer any questions pupils may have about the play and performing at the RSC.

The Live Lesson will be accompanied by a newly launched series of 15-minute Activity Toolkits focused around the six RSC productions now available on BBC Iplayer as part of Culture in Quarantine (see full detail below).

Home-learners can explore games, images, videos and galleries arranged by play title by accessing the award-winning Shakespeare Learning Zone, an interactive web resource featuring comprehensive materials arranged by play title. Educational videos on the RSC YouTube channel include introductions to language terms such as iambic pentameter, actor-lead tutorials exploring the techniques they use to get to grips with a text and full online performances including Tim Crouch’s I, Cinna.

Teachers can also access a range of supporting resources via the RSC website including teacher packs by play and Key Stage.

Schools, colleges and universities can also take advantage of an extended trial of Drama Online before the end of May 2020, featuring 22 titles from The RSC Live Collection. Home-educators can also access up to 17 RSC productions in partnership with Digital Theatre + alongside supporting resources including backstage insights, practitioner interviews, written analysis and more than 450+ productions of the world’s finest theatre.

BBC BITESIZE – SHAKESPEARE IN FOCUS

Romeo and Juliet, RSC, 2018 -the-lovers. Photo by Topher McGrillis

As part of the BBC Bitesize’s daily programme of online lessons, the RSC is working in partnership with the BBC to deliver two-focused weeks of GCSE lesson plans themed around Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice between Monday May 11 – Friday May 15 May and Mon June 15 – Fri June 19.

The weeks will involve daily Shakespeare lessons developed by the RSC for Year 10 students to help unlock Shakespeare’s work and language. Focussing on Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, the lessons will offer special insights from RSC actors and directors about how to decode Shakespeare’s language and bring 400-year-old plays to life for today’s audiences. 

The Shakespeare weeks are in addition to the six RSC plays that will be broadcast by the BBC as part of its Culture in Quarantine programme. The plays, which have all been chosen to link into the curriculum, include:

  •  Hamlet (2016, directed by Simon Godwin, with Paapa Essiedu in the title role); 
  • Macbeth (2018, directed by Polly Findlay, with Christopher Ecclestone in the title role and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth); 
  • Much Ado About Nothing (2014, directed by Christopher Luscombe, with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice); 
  • Othello (2015, directed by Iqbal Khan, with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago); 
  • Romeo and Juliet (2018, directed by Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, with Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet);
  • The Merchant of Venice (2015, directed by Polly Findlay, with Makram J. Khoury as Shylock).

#ShareYourShakespeare

In celebration of William Shakespeare’s 456th birthday on April 23 the RSC unveiled the results of its largest ever digital celebration by audiences.

It challenged audiences globally to share their love of Shakespeare in whatever way they chose. The campaign has, so far, attracted over 1000 submissions from audiences around the world including community theatre-makers, amateur companies, schools, families and working actors with entries received from as far as the USA, Russia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Notable entries received as part of #ShareYourShakespeare include:

  • Lockdown Macbeth – a micro-animated tragedy…featuring baked bean-tin castle and cacti ‘Burnham Wood’
  • Lego Shakespeare featuring ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by The Kings School, Devon and The Tempest by Finlay Aldridge (age 11)
  • A family ‘zoom’ chat with King Lear, Goneril and Regan
  • A photograph of Prince Charles, President of the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing the role of Macbeth, age 17
  • A Shakespearean/Star Wars mash up from The Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust
  • All The World’s A Stage…for women too written by Harriet Walter and William Shakespeare
  • The Tempest re-imagined as a graphic novel
  • An A to Z of Shakespeare…in Scrabble
  • The Great Shakespeare Bake Off – Featuring Lady Macbeth’s ‘out damn spot’ biscuits, cookie-cutter Romeo and Juliet and a drowned Ophelia…immortalized in icing!

A selection of the most creative, surprising and inspiring contributions have been collated digitally in a shared celebration of Shakespeare, which can be viewed at the RSC’s website (rsc.org.uk) and You Tube channel:

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