Every Tuesday in our Riverley and Willow Brook joint after school club our Year 6 children are writing plays. Plays that are driven by character rather than plot. This gives the children’s plays depth and truth as the children explore personality, mood and emotion. The children map out their characters’ wants and fears to help create engaging dramatic conflict.
The idea is to work towards creating a play from scratch which helps us celebrate the children’s time, their experiences and the relationships that they have molded whilst at their Primary schools. For most of our club this is not their first experience of structured drama work, many of the clubs members have been involved in our recent school productions.
Although a daunting experience at the beginning, we are now on week 6 and the young playwrights have already written and edited six thought provoking scenes. All the characters have experienced loss but with the help of the characters new friends they boost each other and raise their hopes of achievement. The challenge to our young playwrights is where are they going to squeeze in the twist?
We cannot wait to see their play and share the children’s final script. We are sure it is going to be a real cliff hanger.
Our 6 top tips are:
1) Be realistic. Your script probably won’t be performed in the west End just yet so avoid special effects, amazing stunts, or anything else that cannot be accomplished by ordinary children. Keep costumes, sets, and props to a minimum.
2) Use a variable size of cast. Two or three actors on stage at any one time.
3) Spread the glory around. Not only is it difficult for one child to carry most of a play, it is just no fun. All the actors want to have their moment. Instead of letting your main character do all the talking, distribute lines among a number of roles.
Other characters might say: What? Are you kidding? I don’t believe it! (Etc.)
4) Make sure your dialogue rings true. Some characters need to sound pompous, old-fashioned or formal. WE MUST READ OUR DIALOGUE OUT LOUD with a critical ear, and then polish, polish, polish. Nothing is more essential to a good play than well-written dialogue!
5) Step outside the box. Our children are so use to media that breaks boundaries. They’ve experienced actors who speak directly to the camera, characters who “know” they’re in a television program, and games that allow almost-real interaction. So we must not be afraid to experiment a little with our plays!
6) Tell the story. Despite its different format, a play is still a story – and you must make it a good one! Create an interesting main character, give him/her a problem worth caring about, go through a complete story arc. Have the characters changed by the end of the play?