Joint thematic workshop - Shakespeare hands-on

The theme of this year's thematic workshop was Shakespeare and drama, to celebrate 400 years since Shakespeare's death and the special link between Weimar and Shakespeare - as Weimar is steeped in German literary history (Goethe and Schiller) and it is the headquarters of the German Shakespeare Society. Here you can read the report from Group Leader, Kikko Kawashima, on what pupils from both countries discussed and what they discovered through performing.

Setting the scene - rehearsal time

Twelve British and five German students took part in this theatrical challenge. After a short introduction to Shakespeare's life, time and works, the students formed four groups with at least one German to focus on either a comic scene from Anthony and Cleopatra where the lovers quarrel or the scene from Macbeth where Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to go through with the assassination of King Duncan. The groups first read the scenes aloud, then discussed the meaning of the scene in German - the British students helping the Germans to gain a better understanding. They then analysed the key themes and literary techniques used to convey the relationship between the characters, making mind-maps.

And, action!

In the next session, the groups wrote a scene in German, loosely based on the original one. Whilst retaining the theme of the original Shakespeare scene and similar relationships between the characters, the students were free to modernise, transform, interpret and present their new versions in any way they wished, showing the universality of Shakespeare's exploration of love, ambition and guilt. (…) One group transformed the Macbeth scene into a high-school plot against the most popular student; another transformed it into an assassination of another candidate before the next general election; one group created a highly-entertaining feminist version of Anthony and Cleopatra's squabbles.

Is Shakespeare still relevant for us today?

The students benefitted from using German in a creative context, quite unlike the work set at A level and had to use lots of linguistic skills to explain and interpret the meaning of the Shakespeare scenes of the German students in German (…). They were able to use a lot of idiomatic expressions that they had learnt that week in their modernised versions of the scenes and they gained confidence in performing in public.