Background

When asked how to create a play for children, Stanislavski replied: The same as for adults, only better.

After the Second World War, people became aware that drama or theatre techniques might be useful as a way of fostering effective learning in schools. This is known as Theatre in education or ‘TIE’ for short. Brian Way, who founded the Theatre Centre in 1953, was an early practitioner, and influenced the team, including Gordon Vallins, who established TIE at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1965. Their work was so influential that it spread nationwide.

Actors performing in Big School production from Belgrade Theatre

Belgrade Theatre’s production Big School discusses the issues around the transition from primary to secondary school Credit: Robert Day

The idea of a high impact performance for a specifically targeted school audience became hugely popular. Because the audiences are small, they can be encouraged to participate through work in role and through debate. Projects can be supported with resource materials and training or support for the students’ teachers.

Originally, a Theatre in education project would probably be centrally funded. These days, companies have to seek their funding from individual schools so they have to provide the product the schools want.

Glossary
  1. asthmatics Sufferers of the medical condition asthma which can cause shortness of breath and wheezing.
  2. devolution Giving powers to regional governments.
  3. diversification To branch out, to develop, to add variety.
  4. evacuee From the French 'évacuer'. A person who is withdrawn or removed from a place of danger, eg a warzone
  5. practitioner Someone who practises or has written theatrical theory and whose theatre may have a definable theatrical form.
  6. risk assessment Process of working out the likelihood of harm or damage being caused, by hazards which have been identified.
  7. role play To take on the role of a different character usually as part of an improvisation to explore an idea.