Watching some of UK theatre’s top talent preparing for a major production of Macbeth, helping young people to fuse hip hop with Shakespeare and meeting The Queen – it’s all in a day’s work for Alix Manning since joining the Royal Shakespeare Company through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme. Here, Alix tells us more about her role as an Education Associate Practitioner.
I’ve been performing since a very young age – about seven years old. Theatre has always been a major factor throughout my life; it has helped me in every aspect of my childhood and youth. I’ve travelled to Germany, Malta and festivals across the UK thanks to theatre. It has allowed me to develop into a better person and helped me pull myself through tough times, using theatre as a therapeutic tool by becoming someone else for a couple of hours.
Because theatre has had such a massive influence on my life, I have always wanted to share this with other young people to show how valuable it is in education and how it can impact on young people’s social skills, and to encourage appreciation, creativity and exploration of imagination.
So my placement as an Education Associate Practitioner at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) was the perfect job for me. The RSC are encouraging me to develop myself professionally to engage young people and help them to learn Shakespeare in more innovative ways using practical approaches. My role so far has been to involve myself and my knowledge and skills in as many projects as possible.
Getting here has been a struggle though. I studied for my BTEC and Foundation Degree in a small midlands town called Burton and then topped it up to a BA at Sheffield for a year while trying to find my way to something bigger and better – which eventually I did when I found out about the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme.
Working for the RSC is so inspiring – not only for me but for any other young people I come into contact with throughout my future because it can show them that no matter where you come from, if you believe in yourself and have the ambition to succeed, you will. I feel extremely privileged to be here and I’m really looking forward to the next step and to working with and meeting the professionals at the top of their game in the most exciting and creative company I could dream about working for.
Sound & Fury
My first task saw me launched into a project called Sound & Fury which asked how we can link Shakespeare and spoken word hip-hop artists to create a project that influenced new writing and performance at Claremont School in Kingsbury, London. All the children involved performed the pieces they had written in a school hall setting where other artists were invited to attend and perform some of their work, including Polar Bear, Lowkey, Professor D from the Decipher Collective and Darmesh Patel, who played the title role in the RSC’s production of Hamlet for young people.
The RSC is really enthusiastic about bringing Shakespeare to young people, so to celebrate this there was a Young People’s Shakespeare conference at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden, London, where Hamlet was staged and a selected number of children from Claremont were chose to perform. This was a very exciting day to be involved in. Seeing the work that I had helped produce and direct was a great feeling and the Claremont school performances were very inspiring. A large percentage of the young people we worked with did not speak English as their first language, so seeing them create and perform pieces of text that had been influenced by the work of hip-hop artists combined with Shakespeare’s text and themes was incredible.
Just after finishing Sound & Fury, I was given the chance to attend rehearsals for the new production of Macbeth, directed by Michael Boyd, the Artistic Director for the RSC. This completely blew my mind – not only a chance to work on major and innovative RSC projects, but to be given the opportunity to work with Michael Boyd and the company was a dream come true. Not only could I observe a professional rehearsal room, but I’d be able to meet other top directors like Greg Doran (who directed David Tennant in the RSC’s production of Hamlet) and be involved in a text discussion with John Barton (scholar, director and Co-Founder of the RSC) and Cicely Berry (voice coach and founder of the Education Department at the RSC).
Macbeth is going to be a fantastic production. I’ve been involved in the rehearsal process and collected a load of notes that will be used when I attend Education Resource meetings to produce performance-specific workshops for teachers and young people around this year’s performance of Macbeth. I’m so excited to be a part of this process; taking exercises and ideas from the rehearsal room into the classroom to teach young people about Shakespeare in a new and exciting way. Macbeth is fast becoming a sell out, so act fast if any of you want to come and see it!
Young Shakespeare Company
The young company are a group of 11 at-risk young people between the ages of 13 and 15. They’re a great bunch of kids with a lot to say but need a chance and an opportunity to work with people that believe in them and could possibly influence them to create a better future for themselves. We’re working on a mini-production of Hamlet, with me as Assistant Director, which will be performed in April. Paul Kaye, an actor, writer and comedian who played Mr Wormsworth in the RSC’s production of Matilda and has also starred in films such as It’s All Gone Pete Tong, is performing with the company and has taken time out of his busy schedule to rehearse with us, which was fantastic. I’m a huge fan of his work so was a little star-struck to say the least! Being part of the RSC’s young company I’ve had so many great opportunities, such as working with international artists and meeting The Queen, which was a very surreal experience and one I won’t ever forget.
So what does the rest of my placement hold? Well The Queen is a tough act to follow but the RSC are interested in me planning my own education project for the second half of this year, so keep your eye on the Bursary Blog for new updates on the events and projects I’ll be getting stuck into.
Photo by Peter Cook. © Royal Shakespeare Company