Caryl Churchill – Rhinegold Publishing

Caryl Churchill


"Caryl Churchill once explained in an interview that she begins with ‘content’ and then finds ‘form’, and that as a playwright ‘you invent the rules, you experiment all the time’ (Third Ear, BBC Radio 3, 17 April 1989). Her writing portfolio reflects this approach and is a great resource for drama teachers, whose challenge lies, similarly, in deciding how to balance ‘process and product’, to seek narrative threads that will both engage and inspire, while instilling a knowledgeable and playful attitude to techniques, structures and styles.

This module uses extracts from her work as tasters, over one or two lessons each, as a brief introduction to a selection of Churchill’s work and suggests comparative slants to suit AQA’s written coursework element. Five of Churchill’s plays are used as starting points for drama exercises, improvisations and further script development.

Recognising that students within the same class will have different strengths, this scheme caters for either scripted or devised practical coursework.The whole class works on the series of introductory lessons together, experiencing the same range of textual, visual and physical stimuli. For the latter part of the module, students can then break into groups to pursue more individual interests in Churchill’s work, and follow up the initial exercises with their own input, adaptations and rehearsals. 

Students can choose to specialise in design, make-up or costume. This supports curriculum initiatives that promote more personalised learning programmes, meeting the individual needs of students. A classroom that can be adapted for movement work, or a drama studio space would fit this scheme. Lessons are based on hour-long slots, but you can break up the activities differently to suit your schedule. The module does include some abstract and sophisticated stylised drama, and relies upon improvisation; it is therefore ideally suited to a more experienced or confident group in the latter half of their GCSE, rather than a group at the start of their course.

Lessons overview:

  • Introduction to Top Girls script and motifs through whole-class improvisation games, discussion and sight-reading
  • Introduction to Lives of the Great Poisoners and dance theatre, through whole-class physical warm-up, sight-reading of script, and group-devised dance
  • Using Lives of the Great Poisoners and The Wizard of Oz as stimuli to explore the dramatic concepts of anagnorisis and peripeteia
  • Introduction to Heart’s Desire using whole-class and group improvisation exercises and script extracts to develop short devised dramas
  • Introduction to the physicality of The Skriker by watching Berkoff’s Metamorphosis and exploring the motif of the underworld; development of physical theatre and group co-operation skills
  • Combining The Skriker’s language and movement, drawing on a script extract, comparison with Kantor’s Theatre of Death and design work
  • Introduction to theme of persecution in Vinegar Tom and Miller’s The Crucible, using script extracts for small group rehearsal
  • Continued exploration of persecution, through musical and scripted stimuli

Number of Lessons: 8

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