Shakespeare duologues: chemistry and collaboration
The new AQA GCSE specification has famously freed us all from the tyranny of Part 1 essays and introduced a new age of practical controlled assessment. One of the most wonderful elements of the new spec is the magical little sentence: ‘Candidates must work in a group of not less than two performers’, opening up a new world of duologues for GCSE.
Think Dumb Waiter, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Waiting for Godot, Educating Rita … and a duologue is just 10 minutes of stage action to sustain instead of the previous minimum of 15. This scheme can be used as a skills-establishing unit with no formal assessment weighting near the start of Year 10, or formalised and written up as a piece of controlled assessment. It’s a real challenge for students to attack Shakespeare’s language and bring it to fruition on stage. But it can enable students to hone their skills in creating chemistry with another performer onstage. No writer understands and maps human relationships in their ‘infinite variety’ better than Shakespeare does.
Part 1 essays had a really good side effect in that they forced students to keep at least a partial record of their practical work and their progress. Some sort of written record to help them chart their own progress remains a good idea so get them to keep a rehearsal journal in which they record each lesson’s achievements. I run my controlled assessments as a series of workshops exploring the stimulus or script as a class before giving the students slightly freer rein to rehearse. This gives me time to circulate and gather evidence for my written records.
To prevent these lessons from becoming a draggy, formless waste of time I give the students workbooks in which to write their session targets. They leave these out on the floor where they are working, so I can scribble in comments on my rounds and save interrupting them.
- understood the idea of ‘communion’ between performers onstage
- read and interpreted a Shakespearean text
- used improvisation during the rehearsal process to flesh out the character
- explored and engaged with Shakespearean plots and dialogue
- used a range of rehearsal strategies to develop performance skills
- created and communicated a role
- developed ideas through practical exploration as they prepare their work for final performance
- used understanding of status to create physically interesting work
- cemented effective chemistry onstage