Day 39 Steps

March 17, 2010

I was so off on writing about the (Why I like Mon) Day 41 community cast blast, I completely forgot to mention that yesterDay 40 (aka Tuesday 16th April 2010) saw in the first of our schools workshops.

The Victory schoolchildren  accompanied by an enthusiastic teacher. They were focused and engaged from the outset. We met them on the riverside by Shakespeare’s Globe.

I introduce myself as a writer, show them two of my books (always good with kids to establish that you’re “famous” – the respect can save you a lot of shouting). I tell them about the recreation of The Globe (pointing out the timbers in the structure) – and that the play they’re going to be in, The Southwark Mysteries, has only been performed once ever before, ten years ago, in this very theatre. Some of the schoolchildren have also performed in Shakespeare’s Globe – there’s a very active Education Department – so we have a bond from the start.

I give ’em my best tour: Ferryman’s Seat, tell her how the money was on the north bank, but the fun was to be had south of  the river;  down Bear Gardens, where bears were baited, until Cromwell closed down the entire wicked Liberty;  past The Rose and The Globe, which the actors “stole” after an argument with their landlord in Shoreditch, moving it over the river and rebuilding it here, using those same timbers…

The Clink Prison, Winchester Palace and how the Bishop of Winchester licenced prositutes, who became known as Winchester Geese (always clear this first with the teacher; if they’re uncomfortable, so will the kids be; likewise if they take it in their stride, a few giggles, then I remind them that these were different times, they used to cut off heads and put them on spikes on London Bridge (always a popular piece of information, frequently provided by the children!)

Mary Overie dock, where I relate the legend of Mary Overie and her father the miserly ferryman who faked his own death only to be mistaken for a ghost and bashed on the head, thus dying twice in a single day. I show them her church, now better known as Southwark Cathedral, taking them briefly inside to show them the vaulted interior – so they’re not too overwhelmed when they come in for the dress rehearsal.

Through Borough Market and down  to Crossbones Graveyard (where else). They’re impressed by the fact that lots of children are buried there. We walk down Redcross Way to Red Cross Gardens, where I explain how someone built those beautiful cottages to try to improve people’s lives at a time when this was one of the poorest parts of London.

We end up walking back through The Borough – Trinity Church Square, Dickens Square Park, Harper Road, New Kent Road all the way back to their school. After a much-appreciated short coffee break in the staff-room, we do a short workshop. Helena (one of our schools workshop leaders) does a simple vocal warm up which culminates in the children throwing her magic sound-ball around the room, changing the sound with each throw.

I give them copies of John Crow’s Wark Book, drawing their attention to ‘John Crow’s Map of The Liberty’ which includes the landmarks they’ve visited on the walk, then teach them to sing The Ballad of Mary Overie.

Helena and I agree they’re a wonderful group to work with.

Did the same walk / workshop combo toDay (39), working with Jill, our other workshop leader, and a St Jude’s school group, Year 6s rather than 5s, more attitude so we had to work harder to keep their attention, but well worth the effort.

As Jill wrote in her report: ‘… lively bunch of year 6 kids who were especially interested in Crossbones and the possibility of it becoming a park or a garden of  remembrance- ‘You can’t put a swing on a grave yard’ or ‘run and play
over dead bodies!’ The school had a friendly and open atmosphere and the teachers were welcoming. John taught them the Mary Overie song and  they picked up the tune quickly.’

This evening: adult community cast, Wednesday group: Sisters of Redcross (and Whores). After Gaz and Ita’s warm-ups, Sarah took the Sisters through their journeys, then choreographed the Pilgrimage of the Sisters accompanying the Sick and the Infirm to their healing, as they recite By the Grace of Our Lady… A lot of them are already “off the book”!

Then, after the break, we ran the opening, with Caroline as Moll Cutpurse and Ollie standing in as John Taylor, the entrances and the group singing of The Ballad of Mary Overie.

It’s a wonder I have time to blog.

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