For each of my previous projects, I have arrived with either a fixed script or at least a clear idea of which idea to take to performance. This time, as I need to meet the children before assessing what they are capable of achieving, I have to be more flexible.
It is not their experience of or ability in drama that concerns me, as I do not expect them to have encountered it at all necessarily (reference my early encounter with the relatively sophisticated young Afghans at the Gekko School on Mytilini: “Please, what is theatre?) This is not a problem; rather, it is part of the fun, for them and me, when I see them encountering the magic of theatre.
It is far more the level of English that I meet that will prove the determining factor, as this is almost my only way of communicating with them (and though I know that body language and tone of voice are important aspects, but you try communicating basic instructions with gestures.) Nor, as usual, can I expect any assistance with translation. So I shall just have to manage. Presumably, that is what all the other teachers have to do – I don’t suppose they have any more Arabic (or Farsi, or whatever) than I do.
There are four classes in each camp, graded by level of English, and I believe I am teaching all eight, with each one expected to put on a performance. That means eight short plays, at different levels of difficulty. It also anticipates every child performing, yet I am sure there will be some reluctance somewhere. We shall see.
As for the plays themselves, all of them are based on folk tales. They come from different parts of the world, but share certain qualities: they have a large number of characters, including some crowd scenes, they have action scenes rather than lots of words, and most are imbued with a sense of humour. Half the ones I have were performed before – two in South Africa, two in Lebanon – and three more are new, that I have never used before.
I know, that leaves me one short, but I will have more time, as we do not start rehearsing until May. So, if I need to write more, or to edit those I have, or drop them altogether and find something new, I have time to do so. And there are other stories to tell; the world is full of tales, it is just a case of finding the right ones.