On Wednesday 14th November, Love Theatre Day, I conducted a Critical Thinking Workshop at the English National Opera. The aim was simple, to encourage a future generation of thinkers to break down their ideas critically.
Kicking off the day with Artistic Director, Daniel Kramer’s adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s evocative choral work War Requiem, the group were asked to critically respond to the piece. Initially unsure of what the show was aiming to convey, discussions would later reveal layers of interpretation the group had gathered during the 90 minute dress run. Conversations raging from initial reactions and feelings, to gauging the Artistic Director’s aims, to dismantling the show to its finer components fuelled the workshop’s progression.
Students currently studying English Literature at A-Level were able to confidently articulate their thoughts, whether positive or negative, and were encouraged to back up their ideas. A comment that springs to mind is that of a student who said that Opera wouldn’t be accessible to them, and their shock in it not being as daunting as what they initially thought it would be. I feel her sentiment echoed many of her fellow students in the room, it certainly echoed mine, this an important conversation within itself and I’m sure that many of us have had.
Encouraged to create a rapid response to the show by creating a draft tweet/status for social media started the ball rolling on summarising a show quickly in a matter of words – this later forming part of their plans for potential reviews crafted at the end of the workshop. Video footage of Daniel Kramer’s vision, followed by contextual information about Britten and Wilfred Owen’s Anti War poetry would deepen their understanding of what the final product was looking to achieve. Taught to develop their own voices, the group were able to craft the beginnings of draft reviews utilising previous knowledge of WWI & II as well as a range of literary devices to start exploring use of vice and language.
To witness a group completely new to theatre, in particular Opera, very quickly construct thoughts and opinions on a show referring to a generation perhaps not as familiar to them was rewarding. To unpack themes, aims and theatrical elements in a couple of hours was a joy to be a part of. The group have now been tasked with creating reviews for ENO’s latest show, La Boheme, considering skills picked up on today. I look forward to reading these and offering feedback, and I’m sure in years to come, some of these voices will be leading theatrical discussions on either their own or mainstream platforms!
Written by Lucy Basaba.
War Requiem will be showing until Friday 7th December 2018 at the English National Opera. To find out more about the production, visit here…