Stage combat is a tricky subject to broach, and every department will have different opinions on the matter, down to personal preference and the expectations imposed on them by the school they are part of. When taught safely, stage combat can be brilliant fun. Massively engaging for students, (especially boys) who enjoy the physicality of it, but also to all students, the slight of hand and showmanship of it allows for enjoyment on all levels. Stage combat can be taught as a comedy tool as much as for ‘serious’ drama.
I currently teach this to new GCSE students right after Christmas. Aside from dangling it as a carrot to those considering their options earlier in the year, we have found that a group who are all voluntarily taking the subject creates a much more focused, hard working and trusting group. Once these skills have been taught, they are told that as long as they ask first, and they follow the rules they have been taught, they can feel free to build the techniques into their coursework, much as they would an essence machine or a flashback. With an increasingly broad variety of plays on offer at GCSE, and devised coursework as well, this gives several groups exciting new possibilities for the rest of the course.
It is worth stating right from the outset that this scheme of work has a huge emphasis on health and safety. Included as a resource is a behaviour contract that you may wish to make use of if you are teaching a younger (or more boisterous) group. It’s pretty watertight, and you should feel free to adapt it to meet the individual sanctions of your department. Students should never be allowed unsupervised practice when creating a fight – the potential for accidents is too high.
This scheme of work teaches students safe ways to create unarmed combat moves in drama. It will prepare them to work methodically through a fight, and choreograph it on paper first, before structuring it piece by piece, much like a dance. It will also explain when a fight is necessary, and how to get maximum theatrical effect from the skills they have learned. The work builds to an assessment based around the market square fight at the start of Romeo and Juliet. However you should feel free to get creative with an assessment. A scene from Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills would work just as well. They could even to re-create a fight from a television programme. See where your group’s interests lie, and plan accordingly!
- To introduce students to the dramatic purpose of a staged fight
- To ensure all work is planned in as safe a way as possible
- To teach students how to ‘sell’ a move
By the end of the unit, students will understand how to stage the following moves:
- Hair/ear drag
- Bang heads
- Throttle and choke
- Eye poke.
Number of lessons: 6