I am a freelance drama facilitator, storyteller, performer playwright, and director.
I have been working in educational drama and community for over 35 years.
I am experienced at working with all ages, from pre-school to post 18, from young adults to elders.
My specialisms include:
- open questioning techniques to create stories and whole class/school/group plays;
- theory and practice of theatre in education;
- learning through role-play and mantle of the expert;
- disability theatre
- forum theatre;
- site specific community plays with all ages and abilities; and
- creative writing workshops
I am Artistic Director of Bournemouth based Double Act Disability Theatre, a project I began with Gill Horitz in 1997. Consisting of two groups, TOPS (actors with learning difficulties) and DATco (actors with physical and sensory impairments), it is now a charity run by its disabled members. The project aims to ally theatre to the ongoing struggle of disabled people to achieve equality in society.
BA (Hons.) Drama and Spanish; PGCT (Goldsmiths College, University of London); MPhil in Education and Drama (Exeter University)
After a Degree in Drama and Spanish in the early 1970s, I spent a year in Mexico researching into folk theatre. This rich experience convinced me that theatre could be accessible to everyone; both as audiences and participants. Back in the UK, I trained to be a teacher, then joined a touring community theatre co-operative, before working as a Drama and English teacher in schools for 4 years. But for the bulk of my career I’ve been co-director of Bournemouth Borough Council’s Theatre in Education service, which was closed in 2009 after a history of over 40 years.
Drama as a Creative Process for Learning
I love working with people of all ages and abilities through drama, seeing their initial reservation melt away as they become engrossed in a story and, almost without realizing it, caught up in the action.
The fact is everyone has a vivid imagination and the capacity to transform inner worlds into shared outer experience. They just need a stimulus to get them going; to assure them it’s OK to play.
That’s where our new name State of Play came from. We want to offer people a magical place in which they can come and feel good playing. So; a special place and a ‘state’ of being in the world. But that’s not to suggest play is just fun. There is a wealth of research suggesting that most human beings learn best from playing, from shared, inter-active experience. We meet people from time to time who still remember plays of ours and drama activities they’ve done with us, as children, years before.
Structured Drama is an open, informal group activity that can enable us to create new, more equitable communities than we’ve experienced in the so-called ‘real world’. That’s why it can work so well with children and adults who have not succeeded in the conventional medium of education.
State of Play’s preferred way of working on a project is through a creative process – we rarely start with a pre-prepared script. Instead, we research a topic and create a dramatic, open-ended input that will raise as many questions as it answers – leave people stimulated and intrigued, wanting to get involved with the topics, to learn more.
Drama and Theatre Influences
Augusto Boal (community theatre) and Dorothy Heathcote (educational drama) are key influences on my practice. But my skills in – and commitment to – open-ended, inter-active theatre come mainly from working in the 70s with the co-operative Word and Action (Dorset). Its founder R.G. Gregory (‘Greg’) is a visionary thinker who invented ‘Instant Theatre’ and ‘Argument Drama’ in his quest for a form of audience participation that was not patronizing or demeaning but liberating for ordinary people.
I also love theatre in the round, story-telling and site specific theatre. I was a co-founders of Wimborne Community Theatre in 1991, which drew on Ann Jellicoe’s community plays but involved participants of all ages and abilities in performing original shows about local history and issues in outdoor – and sometimes indoor – locations.
You never know all there is to know about facilitating groups through drama methodology. I’m still learning. Recently I discovered the work of Vivian Gussin Paley, a remarkable American woman, who has spent many years researching the value of play and story-making with pre-school children (see below). She inspired a series of workshops we ran with Bournemouth pre-schools a couple of years ago, which led to an illustrated book called The Way Through The Wood.
Whether it’s 2 year olds in a pre-school setting, or pensioners in a residential home, human beings are complex and fascinating when they get together in a group to be creative.
“Play and its necessary core of storytelling are the primary realities in the preschool and kindergarten, and they may well be the prototypes for imaginative endeavours throughout our lives”.
Vivian Gussin Paley (1990, Harvard University Press)
The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter
The uses of storytelling in the classroom
M Phil Thesis Community Plays with Schools pub. University of Exeter (2002)
- Mexican film
- Food festival project