Thursday, 30 July 2015

Shane Lynch, a Theatre Arts student at the University of Derby, reflects on yesterday when he helped us to facilitate a workshop with an arts group for people aged 50 plus.

Meeting at 11.30 on a Wednesday morning to discuss curses may seem like a strange thing to do. This was not a meeting of a local esoteric group but the lovely ladies of GoldsQUAD, a group for the over fifties who meet weekly at QUAD to share their interest and skills in arts and crafts. The workshop this week was led by 1623 and entailed exploring curses from Shakespeare. After a bit of trepidation from a couple of ladies about exploring Shakespeare, which they felt they knew little about, they were willing to ‘give it a go’ and the workshop was underway.

Some GoldsQUAD members respond to the curse by making a collageBen began by explaining that, as Shakespeare has a curse at the end of his epitaph as a lasting reminder, and that within each of his plays is at least one curse, 1623 are marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death next year by publishing a series of three photobooks with SHOW ME PICTURES that explore curses from Shakespeare's plays.

The project is called Still Cursing and the first volume is entitled Margaret, which looks at part of the curse delivered by Margaret to Richard in Richard III. After a few moments looking through the photobook and discussing the images within it, we began to look at Richard himself. The ladies discussed what they knew of Richard and his famous body shape. Discussing the recent evidence that the historical Richard suffered scoliosis and how this would have been perceived in his time, the ladies directed me on how I should hold my body in the role of Richard. This prompted a few participants to talk about their own disabilities and ailments. Then Ben and myself performed an extract of the curse for the group. As no exploration of Shakespeare’s curses would be complete without it, we then dipped our toe into Macbeth before looking at the curse delivered by Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.

After reading Mark Antony’s curse and picking out words and phrases that interested the group, it was time for that all important cup of tea and a little time to collect our thoughts and discuss how the morning was going so far. The ladies were talking about the lovely words Shakespeare uses, though they are often unfamiliar to us.

Freshly charged we then split with two ladies and myself taking to the streets of Derby to find photo opportunities to express the mood or themes within Mark Antony’s curse, while the rest stayed behind to create a collage of the hands of war, which are mentioned within the piece:

'Hands of War' by GoldsQUAD"A curse shall light upon the limbs of men:
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds."

After snapping a good few photos, we returned to QUAD, where we found the collage almost complete (they work quickly these ladies), and with a bit of jiggling the group managed to capture the mood and themes of the curse perfectly. As a performer this was extremely useful as it gave me loads of ideas for different ways to deliver the curse vocally and physically. That said, it was then time for me to put my money where my mouth was and perform the curse a few times using the collage's colours, textures, shapes and words as inspiration. The ladies said that they were moved, especially by my more angry version of the curse, which was based mainly on the word "fury" and the predominance of red in the collage.

Sadly, that was the end of the workshop but everyone stayed for a bit of a natter and expressed how much they had enjoyed learning something new. The ladies who had felt a little apprehensive at first said how glad they were they had stayed and that they were leaving not only knowing a bit more about Shakespeare but with a confidence to explore his works more on their own.

So the next time someone asks you to discuss curses on a Wednesday morning, don’t look at them strangely: grab a cup of tea and join in, I certainly will.


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