Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare Sessions – celebrating 10 years of Theatre-in-Education

Guest report by Edel Carmody, Cyclone Rep Theatre Company 

This year marks the tenth anniversary since the creation of Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare Sessions. Cyclone Rep is Ireland’s leading Shakespearean Theatre-in-Education Company. We are also (as far as we know) the only repertory company in Ireland. 

The inspiration for Cyclone’s hugely successful take on Shakespeare’s texts stems from Artistic Director Peadar Donohoe’s years as a drama coach in Cork. His approach to theatre was and still is deeply influenced by Antonin Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty”. Breaking the fourth wall, audience interaction, and heightened physicality are all integral components of Cyclone’s performance style. Using these elements Cyclone achieves their mission to provide secondary school audiences with an exciting and multi-faceted theatrical experience that engages, entertains and educates.

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Cyclone Rep’s “King Lear”    Image credit: Shane Vaughan

The Shakespeare Sessions are abridged versions of the plays that stay true to the language and spirit of Shakespearean theatre. Cyclone’s approach to Theatre-in-Education is highly collaborative and constantly takes on board audience and stakeholders’ feedback. A typical Shakespeare Session includes everything from a sword fight between an actor and a student to nuanced discussions of challenging themes such as madness, gender, or racism.

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Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”      Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Each year the company tours a number of Shakespeare plays in repertory. The 2019-2020 season sees four plays being toured: Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and Hamlet. Marcus Bale, the company manager, estimates that by May 2020, over 31,000 individuals nationwide will have experienced this season’s sessions. Marcus, who plays both Hamlet and Shylock, is an internationally trained actor whose focus for the last 20 years has been the physical theatrical techniques of Commedia dell’Arte, Mime, Clown, Improvisation, and the work of Jacques Lecoq, Eugenio Barba, and Augusto Boal, and these practices have been incorporated into the Cyclone Rep’s style of performance.

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Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”      Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Also, true to 16th century performance tradition is the use of gender-swapped roles. Cyclone plays constantly with this tradition. In Cyclone’s Romeo and Juliet Session, Leah Wood plays Tybalt, while Kieran O’Leary plays The Nurse. Since Shakespeare’s time, his plays have undergone numerous iterations from a Soviet-styled Macbeth to Julius Caesar with an all-female cast. Engaging with this long-standing tradition, Cyclone has re-imagined Shakespeare’s work while staying true to key themes and interpretations. For example, The King Lear Session tackles the theme (central to the play) of nature run amok by setting the play in a post-apocalyptic world caused by climate change. During The Hamlet Session different interpretations surrounding the theme of madness are discussed by the cast with the audience. The Romeo and Juliet Session explores gender and sexuality, and even features Shakespeare himself (played by Mike Keep). When the Bard himself is transplanted into our modern age, he is forced to grapple with how both theatre and the role of women in the public sphere has changed. 

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Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet”           Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Thanks to audience feedback the Shakespeare Sessions have evolved greatly since 2010.In Cyclone’s first production of King Lear in 2015 the characters of Kent and the Fool were merged (this was done to allow for a five-member cast). However, students found this conflation confusing and teachers voiced this issue. So, Cyclone’s second production of The King Lear Session featured six actors and the characters of Kent and Fool were played by two different actors. 

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Ophelia in Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”           Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Beginning in 2010, during The Hamlet Session the main female characters are questioned by the male characters in a mock interrogation scene. Audiences liked this technique so much, that the latest production of The Hamlet Session similarly acts out an interrogation of the male characters’ motives and culpability. Ongoing feedback from teachers and students helps us to constantly incorporate and expand on aspects of the plays that young people and teachers feel are relevant today. Equally, the role of audio-visual aids has grown considerably since our inception. Initially the use of these projections was minimal but this has changed due to audience demand. Now audio-visuals are an integral part of the sessions, and we use a whole range of these, from animations, mind maps, and bullet points clarifying key ideas to rap versions of 16th century poetry and Joy Division songs.

For a decade, Cyclone Rep has been committed to bringing Shakespeare to life for young people nationwide in fresh and creative ways. Since 2010, over 200,000 young people have seen Cyclone’s Shakespeare Sessions. Thus, it is fair to say that in some measure, Cyclone is helping building Ireland’s next generation of theatregoers.

More information can be found on the Cyclone Rep website, along with booking details for upcoming productions (listed below).

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Guest report by Edel Carmody, Cyclone Rep Theatre Company 

Shakespeare Sessions with Cyclone Rep, 2019-2020 – theatre for and in schools

[Info from Civic Theatre, Tallaght, website]

Cyclone Rep, Ireland’s Leading Shakespeare Theatre-in-Education Company, presents The Shakespeare Sessions. These are entertaining and engaging student-centred performances of Shakespeare’s texts. This year the company is presenting The King Lear Session, The Hamlet Session, The Romeo & Juliet Session & The Merchant Session (pending demand).

Each performance includes an edited production of the play together with a scholarly review clarifying the main themes as well as discussions with the students and the opportunity to participate. The Shakespeare Sessions will guide Junior and Senior Cycle learners in their understanding of The Bard’s masterpieces.

For further details and for the 2019-2020 tour schedule, see the Cyclone Rep website.

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The Lear Session  (Image source: Cyclone Rep website)

 


 

Theatre: Romeo and Juliet at dlr Mill Theatre Dundrum

From the dlr Mill theatre Dundrum website.

Directed by Geoff O’Keeffe for MILL PRODUCTIONS, this abridged version of Romeo and Juliet is an ideal opportunity to expose Junior Cycle students to their first live Shakespeare experience.

Throughout the year the venue also offers you and your pupils (at all levels) the opportunity to really engage with your chosen text by offering Drama Workshops to bring these texts to life.  Workshops are led by experienced facilitators and designed to engage the student creatively by exploring characters, themes and language of your chosen text. Mill Productions has produced 2 Shakespeare plays every year for many years – including Macbeth in 2018, King Lear 2017 and Hamlet 2016. For booking details see the dlr Mill theatre Dundrum website here.

FULL CAST:
Jack Mullarkey                        Romeo
Gillian Buckle                          Juliet
Michael James Ford                Capulet
Serena Brabazon                     Lady Capulet
Evelyn Shaw                            Nurse
Brian James Gilligan               Friar / Tybalt
Rachel O’Connell                    Mercutio
Ethan Dillon                            Benvolio

Gillian Buckle and Jack Mullarkey in Romeo and Juliet - Mill Productions 2019

Gillian Buckle and Jack Mullarkey in Romeo and Juliet – Mill Productions 2019