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Switching on to Shakespeare:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Keith Park turns bard as two groups of pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities participate in a series of poetry workshops at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Get your communication aids, parachute, glittery blanket and drum ready, and prepare to join in the fun...
hy should young people with severe and profound learning disabilities want to experience the story line, the atmosphere and the language of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in performance on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre? Vygostsky (1978, p.88) observed, “Human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” Life experiences and opportunities for people with the highest support needs are often very restricted, and so Vygotsky presents us with an interesting challenge: if we do share a ‘social nature’, and the ‘intellectual life’ of a shared cultural heritage, how might we include people with multiple disabilities? Our poetry workshops are an exploration of this question. Shakespeare seemed an obvious starting point: his monumental and enduring influence on English language and culture has been described by Bernard Levin (1983, 167-168) in one long and enthusiastic sentence: “If you cannot understand my argument, and declare ‘It’s Greek to me’, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up 10.Declarative pointing and that truth will out even if it pointing to an object, while lookif you agree with involves your own flesh and ing at the communication partner Shakespeare when he says blood, if you lie low till the before, during or after the point, • Question your desires crack of doom because you susto indicate ‘look at that.’ • never anything can be pect foul play, if you have your Participants who do not have amiss When simpleness teeth set on edge (at one fell speech may also use VOCAs (Voice and duty tender it swoop) without rhyme or reaOutput Communication Aids). • How happy some o’er son, then - to give the devil his Anecdotal evidence suggests that, other some can be! due - if the truth were known while many Alternative and (for surely you have a tongue in your head), you Augmentative Communication (AAC) users may are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good often be provided with switches to respond to riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was questions, they do not always have the opportudead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore, a nities to initiate an interaction so, in particular, we laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-heartwanted to give participants who are switch users ed villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then the opportunity to initiate each of the exchanges. It - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness sake! seems a priority that, when an aim is to encourage what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to the use of a switch and its social functions, we me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.” should also provide opportunities for users to initiOur second aim was for participants to develop ate and then to practise a new skill. Therefore the language and communication skills within the framelines that start each activity are context-setting, work of the poetry workshops. Examples include: and then become time-independent, so they can be 1. Awareness repeated as often as possible throughout the activdemonstrating any kind of awareness of the ity. This allows switch users to contribute throughsights and sounds of the activities out the exchanges. It follows that it is also useful to 2. Anticipation provide them with a pre-recorded message that is for example, demonstrating an anticipation of the the final line of an exchange, or of a song or story. loud donkey noises that end two of the activities 3. Turn-taking Each of the six activities from A Midsummer participating, in any way, in the turn-taking call Night’s Dream (see figure 1) contain extracts of and response structure of the activities original text that is performed in call and response 4. Showing self (one or more persons calling out the words, and the participant demonstrates a ‘this is me’ behaviour the others then repeating those words or respondto gain someone else’s attention by, for example, ing by any movement or sound). Each of the worksmiling, laughing, eye contact, and vocalizing shop activities can be initiated by a switch user say5. Showing objects ing the first line, as indicated in italics in figure 1. this is a ‘look at this’, attention-sharing behaviour Each first line is also time-independent and can be 6. Giving objects used repeatedly throughout each activity. For in contrast to the ‘showing objects’ behaviour example, Titania’s snoring initiates the first 7. Seeking physical proximity exchange and, when repeated, can contribute to moving, or turning, towards another person to the comic effect of the activity. The final line of indicate intention or desire to communicate each activity, also indicated in italics in figure 1, is 8. Gaze alternation called out by everyone together. Participants with looking from an object to someone else - or sensory impairments may also use a drum or tamvice versa - as a means of sharing attention bour, and the resonance of the wooden stage. In 9. Joint attention the classroom a resonance board can be used. two or more people are intentionally looking We have been very fortunate in having access to the at the same thing (or person) at the same time
Initiated by a switch user
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE SPRING 2002
Figure 1 - Workshop activities from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Storyline: Oberon, the king of the fairies, is having an argument with his queen Titania (II, ii). He decides to teach her a lesson, and puts a magic herb on her eyes as she sleeps. She will fall in love with whatever she sees when waking up Bottom, with the head of a donkey (III, i). Titania is snoring..... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......... What thou seest when thou dost wake, Do it for thy true-love take; When thou wakest, it is thy dear: Wake when some vile thing is near. Eee - Eee - Eee - Eee orr!!! I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again Eee orr!! Eee orr!! Eee orr!! Activity: One person (or two or three) is in the middle of the circle as Titania. The lines are spoken in call and response; after the exchange is initiated by Titania with the snoring sound recorded on the switch, everyone makes a very loud donkey noise. The first Eee orr is done rather like a sneeze (‘Eee Eee Eee Eee-Orr!’ like ‘Aah Aah Aah Choo!’) to provide an exaggerated anticipation. The donkey sounds can then be repeated twice more - and even louder - in reply to Titania’s words on waking up. This activity is also done using a parachute: participants gently wave the parachute over the sleeping head(s) of Titania; the parachute is then dropped by everyone (as the Eee-Eee-Eee is spoken) except one or two people who quickly pull back the material to reveal the waking Titania as everyone calls out ‘Eee-orrr!’ (Our parachute is dark blue with bright yellow stars - the sky of the Midsummer Night.) “How low am I? Episode 2: Hermia to Helena: Not yet so low But that my nails Can reach into”
2. Hermia to Helena
Storyline: Helena and Hermia are lost in the woods and are very cross with each other (III, ii). In the play, Helena is often played by someone tall, and Hermia by someone short, hence the ‘painted maypole’ and ‘dwarf’ insults in the next two extracts. You puppet, you! Painted maypole! How low am I? Not yet so low But that my nails Can reach into Thine eyes! Aaarrgghh! Activity: This activity is initiated by Helena’s words ‘You puppet you!’ pre-recorded on the switch. Hermia’s lines are spoken with simulated anger, starting quietly and getting louder each line, until the ‘Aaarrgghh’ is screamed out with everyone stamping their feet and waving their arms in a simulated temper tantrum. If Helena’s words are repeated by the switch user throughout the exchange, it contributes to the effect of two people having a noisy argument One or more participants can be in the middle of the circle as Helena, to provide a focal point for Hermia’s invective.
3. Helena and Lysander, to Hermia
Storyline: Helena and Lysander take their turn at insulting Hermia (III, ii). Oooohhhh! When she’s angry She is keen and shrewd Though she be but little She is fierce Get you gone you dwarf You minimus You bead You acorn Oooohhhh Activity: The ‘Oooohhhh!’ on the switch starts this exchange, which we do in a pantomime dame style (think Julian Clary) to provide a contrast to the previous activity. It finishes with everyone putting their hands on their hips and calling out a very exaggerated ‘Oooohhhh!’ Participants can also suggest another character whose style can be imitated - Clint Eastwood (‘make my day’) or Patsy or Edina from Absolutely Fabulous.
“Thine eyes! Aaaarrrggghhh!!!”
Mark Rylance, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, meeting the group of pupils from Charlton School who are doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.
Storyline: After his Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom wakes up and announces: ‘I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream, because it hath no bottom’ (IV, i). But he just cannot get the words right. Eee orr I have had a dream Methought I was Methought I had The eye of man Hath not heard The ear of man Hath not seen What my dream was Man is but an ass Eee orrr!! Activity: The ‘Eee orrr’ that dominates this exchange is heavily ironic: an ‘Eeee orrr’ that means something like ‘ stu pid’. Anyone who has ever seen John Cleese and others playing the very gormless Mr and Mrs Gumby (knotted handkerchief on head, rolling eyes, trousers rolled up, arms held out like penguin flippers, and calling out ‘Dhhrrr!’) may have a role model.
5. Pyramus and Thisbe
‘This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.’ So says one of the characters (V, i) about the play ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ presented by Bottom and his friends to the nobles at court. It ends with Pyramus, believing Thisbe to be dead, stabbing himself (lines 1-4); Thisbe then appears, sees Pyramus dead, and duly stabs herself (lines 5-7). Oooohhhh O Fates, come, come! Cut thread and thrum; Quail, crush, Conclude and quell! And, farewell, friends; Thus Thisbe ends: Adieu Adieu Byeeeeee!! Activity: A chance for some real over-the-top acting, with the words being accompanied by grand sweeping gestures. A pre-recorded melodramatic groan ‘Oooohhhh’ - on a switch initiates the activity, and can then be repeated throughout, to accentuate the comedy of the awful acting. A large glittery blanket (the wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe have been talking) is held up by one or two people so that everyone can see it. It is gradually lowered over someone as the ‘adieus’ are called out, and then thrown over someone as everyone suddenly shouts ‘Byeeee!’
6. ‘Let the audience look to their eyes’
So says Bottom, convinced that their play Pyramus and Thisbe will move the audience to tears. The Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of references to eyes and the imagery of vision. Helena says ‘Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind’ and that Demetrius is ‘doting on Hermia’s eyes’ - an indication that this might not be true love. All the mistakes follow from magic potions to the eyes. This is a brief selection of poetic images about eyes and vision from the play. Lines five and six are spoken by Hermia as the two couples wake up in the woods the next morning, dazed and confused. The final two lines are Oberon’s, as he releases Titania from the magic spell of her love for the donkey-headed Bottom. Sssshhhh Upon thy eyes I throw All the power this charm doth owe I see these things with parted eye, When every thing seems double. I will her charmed eye release And all things shall be peace Sssshhhh Activity: These lines are spoken quietly, initiated by the switch user’s ‘Sssshhhh’, while a parachute is gently raised and lowered over all participants. As the final long ‘Sssshhhh’ is spoken the parachute is released and covers everyone, and is followed by as long a silence as possible. This is a calm and quiet activity to end the workshop.
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE SPRING 2002
NARROW IN PERSPECTIVE
stage of the Globe Theatre, and also the participation of three actors from the Globe, whose enthusiasm and commitment helped to make the workshops very special. On several occasions we were also able to use the musical instruments that were used in the Globe Theatre’s summer production of Cymbeline. To evaluate the workshops we are using a framework for achievement based on the work of Brown (1996) and Grove (1998). This is the evaluation form for Nicole, who is 12 years old and has high support needs including a dual sensory impairment: Encounter: being present, being provided with sensations. Nicole attended each of the workshops. She was placed in the centre of the semi-circle of the participants, and was supported by a member of staff sitting next to her. Nicole lay on the stage floor; participants stamped on the stage floor during the words of the exchange so that she could feel the vibrations. Awareness: noticing that something is going on. When the gong was used during the workshops (episodes 1 and 6), Nicole would often turn towards it. She also often looked at and reached for the parachute (episode 6) as it was lowered over her as well as the glittery blanket (episode 5). Attention and response: showing surprise, enjoyment, dissatisfaction. Nicole smiled when she was helped to use the drum to set the tempo of the call and response. On several occasions she ‘answered’ the sound and resonance of the gong by calling out in a loud and low call (confirmed by her family who watched the video of the workshop). Engagement: directed attention, intentional looking, listening, showing interest, recognition. On many occasions, Nicole looked at the white glittery blanket as it was lowered over her as part of one of the activities (episode 5). She also directed her attention towards the gong and the parachute on many occasions. Participation: supported participation, sharing, turn-taking. With the support of a member of staff, Nicole fully participated in the turn-taking of the call and response method of storytelling by beating the drum. This enabled her to help initiate each activity.
Readers of our version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ may be interested to know that the workshop materials have also been used in school classrooms as well as onstage at the Globe Theatre. Apart from the appropriate communication aids, the workshops only need a parachute, a glittery blanket, a drum, and staff enthusiasm, to be done anywhere. Keith Park is an Advisory Teacher for Sense in Greenwich and Lewisham, tel. 0771-502-6354, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUMAN COMMUNICATION: A LINGUISTIC APPROACH Graham Williamson Speechmark ISBN 0 86388 236 6 £25.95
The intended target audience for this text includes professionals, teachers, carers and students. It addresses human communication from a linguistic perspective, including language acquisition, language use, semantics, grammar, phonetics and phonology. Although most aspects of communication were covered, the content tended to be quite narrow in perspective, giving little consideration to areas such as bilingualism, sign language and written language. This book would be difficult for non-specialist readers to get into, as some sections tended to be technical in terms of written style and terminology. Some quite good chapters would be a suitable resource for professionals giving presentations, but for students this would be better suited as a supplementary text. Betty Martin is a speech and language therapy student at UCE, Birmingham.
Brown, E. (1996) RE For All. London: David Fulton Publishers. Grove, N. (1998) Literature For All. London: David Fulton Publishers. Levin, B. (1983) Enthusiasms. London: Curtis Brown Ltd. Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in Society: Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
• I will roar, that I will do any man’s heart good to hear me; I will roar, that I will make the duke say, ‘Let him roar again, let him roar again.’ ... I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you as ‘twere any nightingale. • Dark night, that from the eye his function takes, The ear more quick of apprehension makes; Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense, It pays the hearing double recompense. • So we grew together, Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, But yet an union in partition; Two lovely berries moulded on one stem; So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart.
TIME TO SING! (CD) The Centre for Creative Play Black Sheep Press (UK Distributor) £12.00
This CD has 26 ‘traditional’ songs mostly, but not all, familiar. The words are helpfully enclosed. Although sung at a slower pace than usual, other features - the use of Sesame Street style funny accents, occasionally quite uncomfortable phrasings, extra verses and potentially confusing word changes (Head, Tummy, Knees & Toes) - makes a few songs difficult and sometimes irritating to listen to. However there is a nice mix of adult and children’s voices on certain tracks. The music is generally funky and interesting, but some of the introductions and refrains are long and potentially boring for those with short attention spans. When it worked I enjoyed singing along with ‘ohhh the okey cokey’ at the top of my lungs. Unfortunately it didn’t happen often enough for me to recommend this as a ‘must have’. A very good idea, but still needs some work. Marion Hall is a speech and language therapist working in Newcastle upon Tyne for the community paediatric service.
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE SPRING 2002
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