Teacher-Director Phil Branch’s week 3 diary

Week 3: Phil Branch - The Wavell School

It’s Othello week and our first rehearsal is off because Cassio is unwell. – the curse of the rehearsal schedule. The others in his scene arrive eager for their rehearsal, but it revolves around Cassio and so we call it off.

Here comes another troop to seek for youOthello (Act I, Scene II)

Fortunately, the next day he’s feeling better and all’s well. But for the after school rehearsal, school stuff gets in the way (a meeting) and I am forced to leave the rehearsal to my Student Company Manager. – we’ve had a good chat about what needs to be rehearsed and she’s on the case.

The next day is a session I’ve really been looking forward to – we’re in the Movement Studio for a dance rehearsal. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, with the mightily abridged version of the play, none of the remaining script actually shows just how much Othello and Desdemona are in love. Now, if we were setting this in Europe, I guess we could get around the lack of loving dialogue with some hugging or even the odd kiss and that would probably work pretty well. But because we are setting our version in Japan – Oh, I haven’t mentioned that have I? – Well, we’re setting our version of Othello in 17th century Japan. Why? That’s a long story for another blog! Anyhow, my Japanese experts – (Alan, a colleague, and his most lovely wife Yoko) – tell me that in 17th century Japan there would be no physical contact between lovers in public - not even holding hands - that creates a bit of a problem! Especially as every scene with Desdemona and Othello includes other characters – Well that’s not entirely true…..  they are alone in the last scene but this is where he kills her. – (Oops, I hope I haven’t spoilt the ending!) – So clearly, this is not really a scene where we could show a whole lot of loving going on!

To try and solve this, we plan to have 2 very short dance sequences and my most wonderful colleague Samantha has created some choreography for the 2 characters.

Aidan ‘Othello’, rocks up and nervously states. ‘I can’t really dance very well Sir.’

‘Don’t worry Aidan by the time we’ve finished with you they’ll be calling you Billy Elliot!’

And so ‘Othello’ enters into his dance rehearsal ‘full of confidence’.

At the end he tells us, ‘It wasn’t that bad!’ Whahoo! We’ve opened the eyes of another teenager to the wonders of dance.

Thursday’s rehearsal is for ‘Richard III’ because a) they need the rehearsal and b) Monday is our workshop in Bracknell. Time to lay down the law about expected behaviour and what time to meet etc. Yes – logistics! However, we all know logistics and the best laid plans fall apart in the hands of teenagers. It’s like there’s some massive void where crucial information disappears between the info leaving the teachers mouth and it getting to the students’ brains. So, the following day - after their worst ever rehearsal! - I’m relaxing (yes I know, a term alien to most teachers during term time!) for 10 minutes in the staff room when there’s the dreaded knock at the door and everyone calls out ‘If it’s for me I’m not here!’

Invariably a member of staff enters who wasn’t privy to the massed call –

‘Mr B. here’s a troop of students to see you.’ – Edit relaxation!

They want to know where to hand in their money for the minibus and their medical forms. – Strangely, all those of you dear readers who are teachers know what my answer was – for those of you not in the profession, I sent them away with my words ringing in their ears…. 'I told you yesterday at the rehearsal!’ - Students, logistics and that really annoying void!!!! Bring on the weekend!

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