Tuesday 22 January 2019

Helping students develop a better understanding of Shakespeare

Actor Isabel Claffey has over the years developed a huge grá for the works of William Shakespeare, and now she wants to help students and teachers studying his writing to learn more about what makes it so special.

Isabel has recently set up her own educational drama theatre company, 'Shared Light Theatre Company', where she will be running Shakespeare workshops for second level schools.

"The main function is to to bring Shakespeare to schools. There are many branches to that. There will be workshops with teachers, students, exam years and even those in transition year where we can do longer workshops," she explained to The Sligo Champion.

On October 24th there will be a demo in the Sligo Education Centre from 7pm. Teachers from across the North West are invited, as are parents and students themselves to get a flavour for what Isabel's workshops will offer.

"We will go on location to schools. Lots of schools come into town for various Shakespeare productions but some schools can't so we will aim to get to the more rural ones and to bring it to them really," she added.

The structure of those workshops will depend on the age group, time available, numbers in the group and more.

"It depends on a number of things. We'll cater to the different age groups for example, a junior cert class, there might be a warm up, then a physical re-telling of a story and students will be taking part.

"Some of it might include discussion about a character, or discussing a still image."

Isbael feels that while teachers are doing an excellent job of educating students about Shakespeare, there is still work to be done to ensure they fully understand the work, rather than learning it off for the sake of an exam.

"Being compulsory in schools is sort of a shame for many reasons.

"Some of the questions in the exams can be more production based, which is not part of teachers' training. Plays were made to be put on, so people can feel a connection. And in that sense, reading it alone will maybe not be enough. But if they see it, and maybe get involved themselves, they will learn more."

Some participants in Isbael's acting classes are still living in fear of Shakespeare, but she aims to help them overcome that, again by understanding it more.

"Adults will often shudder when they see a certain Shakespeare play because they studied it in school. When you work with them then and help them understand it better they change their opinion. This can really help students get a better handle on Shakespeare.

"We're mobile and we want students to be a part of it rather than just an observer. We will be hitting properly in the next few weeks, talking to schools and all that."

Anyone looking for further information on Isabel's Shakespeare workshops can get in touch via email on or by phone on 0868151718.

Sligo Champion