Monday, 7 June 2010

Associate trainee Oliver Tunstall is keeping a blog of his experiences with The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010, which he helped to develop in its early stages last year.

Oliver bangs his drum to the Shakespeare beat at the launch of The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010 at Royal Derby Hospital (c) 1623

FRIDAY 23 APRIL

Launch day ... and Shakespeare's birthday! After months of preparation, which included working with many people including teachers and nurses, it felt like this day would never come. Ben [Spiller, artistic director], Katherine [Glenn, associate artist], Stuart [Lydon, associate artist], Adam [Buss, associate artist] and I had worked for so long putting together The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010 - inspired by Troilus and Cressida - that I couldn’t believe we were about to launch it officially to the public! So, it began inside the London Road Community Hospital where, with limited space, we managed to march in two soldiers (one Greek, one Trojan) in full armour, the Greek servant Thersites covered in delightful scabs and infested with diseases, and - of course - the ever-so glamorous Helen of Troy. We were able to rouse some of the passing staff and visitors to join in, whilst the whole 1623 gang were there to show off their “good arms” and “strong joints”! Then it was time to jump on the bus in full costume, which provoked some pretty confused looks on the faces of our fellow passengers; but most of the public seemed to appreciate it! In comparison to the previous hospital, we had a huge outdoor space to make our own at the Royal Derby Hospital, which was great for me, as it meant I got to bang my drum as loud as I pleased to keep our workout participants in time. It seemed that we managed to time the beginning of the workout just right, as most of the medical students were just being released and, as a result, we got a great audience who all seemed to enjoy watching, if not joining in with the rest of us. As the workout continued, all the participants were getting a little hot and - in some cases - breathless, despite them having to chant "I am not warm yet!" while jogging in a circle towards the end of the session. With the positive feedback that we were given after the two workouts, I knew that the rest of sessions would be just as much fun!

For the official report on the project launch, take a look at The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010 has launched! 

Oliver keeps everyone moving to the beat in The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010 at Derbyshire Literature Festival (c) 1623

WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE

Today, I took part in two workouts at Derbyshire Literature Festival. Travelling to Whaley Bridge Church Hall saw me having to be up bright and early with my drum and, after the hour-and-a-half drive to Whaley Bridge, I was ready and raring to get the workout started! It was great to see a range of ages - from young children to teenagers to adults - showing an interest in the workout and, while some of them might not have understood all the language used, none of them were afraid to join in and sweat in the name of Shakespeare! It seemed like, regardless of the differences in age and physical ability, everyone had fun. It was great that some participants were bold enough to ask questions if there was something that they didn’t understand, or if they wanted to know more about Troilus and Cressida. After just under sixty minutes of moving to the Shakespeare beat, it was time to say our goodbyes to Whaley Bridge and journey to Ilkeston Library. Considering that a library is normally silent, nobody was afraid to make some noise in order to move to the beat of Shakespeare; it was fantastic! One of the participants was an elderly lady who couldn’t stand for the entirety of the workout, but she managed to perfect the art of marching and chanting while seated. It was a real pleasure to see because it just shows that the workout is for everyone; something that I've wanted to achieve with the workout from the beginning. A very rewarding day. 

SUNDAY 6 JUNE

What started off as a beautiful sunny day typically went very British, and the heavens opened just as we were about to begin our outdoor workout at Shipley Country Park! However, we at 1623 are never ones to let the rain stop a session of Shakespeare (workouts or performances), so we merely moved indoors to the visitor centre! The number of people that turned up from the start was amazing, and it seemed that word of mouth (and the din of the drum!) spread throughout the building because more and more people kept joining us throughout the workout to come and take part. Even if it was a bit of a squeeze fitting a good 40 or so people into a room, while still giving them the space to do the workout, everyone coped and had a great time doing so. I was shocked to find out that people had come from all over the country to come and take part; at the same time, it was great to know that so much interest had been generated for something of which I was able to be a part. The workout goes to Glastonbury later this month, but I'll be performing in Midsummer Magic for 1623; so it'll be a case of a little rest from the drumming and marching before rejoining the workout later in the summer.

To read associate artist Ben Adams' report on The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010 at the Glastonbury Festival, visit Ben beefs up and burns at Glastonbury.

WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE

Today saw 1623 visiting Conkers, the outdoor adventure park where I hadn’t been since I went there on a primary school field trip. However, we were there for a very different reason today: to get over 100 Year 8 students from William Allitt School - on an enrichment week at Conkers - to take part in the Great Shakespearean Workout 2010! It seemed that the workout came as a bit of a shock to the first group we worked with, as they were expecting a performance! Nevertheless, everyone got up and joined in, with some particularly keen warriors on the front row. We soon had our Greek and Trojan armies battling to the beat of Shakespeare! After lunch, it was time to move on to our second group. It seemed that food, and undoubtedly sugar, had done our next group a world of good as all of them had high energy levels and were keen to get the workout going. This time round, we even had some exceptionally eager volunteers who became the generals of the two armies by standing on the platform either side of Kat as she led the workout. Both armies made plenty of noise in this session; however, the Trojans managed to steal victory for being the loudest army and - trust me - they were LOUD!

MONDAY 19 JULY

A special day today for Alderman White School in Nottinghamshire, as they were to become part of the newly formed White Hills Park Federation, and today they chose us to celebrate the occasion with them! Once again, the war between the two armies seemed to be the most popular part of the workout, as we managed to organise our warriors into two HUGE lines and then let the battle commence. They got so into the workout that it felt like we were going to have to deal with some real life battling, but luckily the warriors were able to restrain themselves and used Shakespeare's words to beat their opponents! By the time we reached the warm-down, all of our participants were looking slightly worn out, although we did have one very eager young lady desperate to play Helen of Troy and, as a result, she graced the end of the workout with her elegant moves to "The mortal Venus", the "heartblood of beauty" and "love's visible soul"! An hour later, we found ourselves at Bramcote Hills College, who were also celebrating becoming part of the White Hills Park Federation! My first thought when seeing the group was that, because they were well and truly into their teens, they wouldn’t get involved or enjoy the workout very much. But how they proved me wrong! Our participants threw themselves completely into the workout and there was even a showdown between Kat and one of the students to see who truly had “good arms" and "strong joints”. Needless to say Kat claimed the victory for her own, like no other workout leader could!

TUESDAY 27 JULY 

An evening workout today saw us in Shirebrook Library and, because it was after hours, it meant that I got to bang my drum as loudly as I pleased! Due to limited space, we had fewer participants than in the past few weeks, but it wasn’t a problem! We had our warriors sweating in no time amongst the books, magazines and DVDs. Even though this workout was on a much smaller scale to all the previous ones, for me it was a special one because it would be my last session; so it was great to receive such a positive response - including three very enthusiastic follow-up emails - and we were asked if we could be booked again soon, as all the participants found it a great, fun way to keep fit. A fantastic way to end the day and my involvement in The Great Shakespearean Workout 2010.  I'm now getting ready to go to drama school in London, where I'll be based for the next three years; but I'll be in touch with the workout team every now and then to check on their progress and to make sure that they're keeping to the Shakespeare fitness programme!

 

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