Practical techniques using the Cinderella story and The Ash Girl by Ti – Rhinegold Publishing

Practical techniques using the Cinderella story and The Ash Girl by Timberlake Wertenbaker


The following scheme of work is written with the AQA GCSE Drama, Unit 2 practical work in mind. The sessions can be adapted to suit the circumstances of individual schools. During the scheme, many drama techniques are introduced and plenty of opportunity is given for improvisation, recognizing AQA’s statement that: ‘candidates are required to develop the ability to use improvisation skills in a range of drama contexts. For all performance options, improvisation is used in a variety of ways. Candidates will use improvisation to devise, as a performance mode and as a means to improve scripted performance. They may use a range of spontaneous, prepared and polished improvisation skills. These will be used effectively during the preparation and rehearsal period.’

Ideas stem from the most commonly-known Cinderella story (there are about 700 versions, all told) and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s working of the story The Ash Girl. There are opportunities for duologue and three-hander acting; the themes explored are ideal for devising, polished improvisation and Theatre in Education topics as they range from bullying (parent/child, sibling/sibling), eating disorders (Ruth and Judith overeat while Ashie starves herself), the seven deadly sins (represented here as creatures), friendship, family relationships, love and marriage, exiles (Zehra, Amir and Paul) and fantasy (the forest and the seven deadly sins).

Although this scheme does not specifically suggest ideas for Part 1 Options 6 –14, the play offers some splendid opportunities for all aspects of design. For example, costumes for the seven deadly sins as creatures; for Zehra and Amir (traditional in their dress reflecting their oriental roots); ball gowns for Ruth, Judith and Ashie; set design for any of the locations, especially Act 1 scene 11 and any of the forest scenes; lighting for the forest or Act 2 scene 1, Zehra’s Palace, ready for the ball. The possibilities are endless! Yes, I’m a great fan of Wertenbaker and have also used this and other plays of hers with A level students. On one memorable occasion, she replied to a letter written by an A level class, with useful information on her writing of Our Country’s Good.

Learning objectives

To introduce a range of practical drama strategies and techniques at the beginning of the GCSE course

To learn these technique definitions:
  • Blocking – planning the position actors will take on stage
  • Freeze-frame/still image/tableau – a still picture of a specific moment in a piece of drama
  • Improvisation – make up and act out a drama with little or no preparation time
  • Soliloquy – speak in character to the audience; share your thoughts and feelings
To learn about the following definitions:
  • Realism – performance that is true-to-life
  • Role on the wall – using the outline of a human figure on a large piece of paper, individuals, groups or class write words inside the outline to give details of the character. This is an effective technique to build and develop a character from scratch
  • Given circumstances – a technique identified by Stanislavski to find out everything that a text has to offer about a character
  • Thought tunnel – a student in role walks between two rows of other students who, as the character walks slowly past, speak out loud what they imagine the character might be feeling or thinking
  • Off-text work – exploring, through improvisation, events implied by the text
  • Thinks! – a character in a freeze-frame comes to life and speaks thoughts out loud whilst the others in the freeze remain still
  • Soundscape – sometimes called sound picture or sound collage. A variety of sounds are created by the voice, objects to hand or musical instruments. The soundscape is carefully orchestrated to underpin the dramatic effect and enhance atmosphere 

Number of lessons: 8

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