Black Theatre Live


New Approaches to Participation by Lizzie Watts

Lizzie Watts (Outreach Worker, Key Theatre) reports on her experience of  Black  Theatre Live participation for the tour of Macbeth in Peterborough..

I always find something special happens when creative minds come together, as I sat in the Derby Theatre café on the morning of the Black Theatre Live launch meeting the Tara Arts team and watching all of the other outreach workers arrive: hearing about their backgrounds, cities and theatres – I knew I was part of something exciting!

We all soon became well versed in introducing ourselves as we met with different artists over the three days. Jatinder Verma spoke passionately about the first production for the tour – Macbeth – and his creative vision for the piece. Instantly I couldn’t wait to see the Hijras…and boy they didn’t disappoint! Matthew Xia had us on our feet offering workshop ideas and ways to hook in a new audience. Whilst Ben Spiller got us working up a sweat with The Great Shakespearean Workout – a device I incorporated into my own outreach work (seriously you need to try it!).

Over the course of the three days we all became close as a group as we learnt more about each other and were united by our collective goal to get people enthused about Macbeth, the BTL initiative and encourage a more diverse audience into the theatre. I left feeling extremely inspired and exhausted!

Next came the hard work. I decided I wanted my workshops to be fun and active, to change people’s perceptions about Shakespeare and make them leave eager to see Tara Arts’ production. My first workshop was for families and it was enormously enjoyable to watch the parent’s faces drop when I informed them that they too would be joining in. It was a delight to observe them and their children working together as we acted out the story, soon everyone’s inhibitions left the room and we really started to have fun. By the end of the two hours it was clear to see that the adults got as much out of it as their kids.

Jatinder joined me to deliver a fantastic session on New Approaches to Shakespeare giving the participants an insight into his rehearsal process with the cast and proving how important it is to honour the language – Shakespeare really was a clever old chap!

Finally I hit the schools, and with four secondary and one primary I had my work cut out for sure. I was so impressed with the focus and commitment demonstrated by all the students I worked with and especially relished hearing how, for many, their opinion of Shakespeare changed over the course of the workshop. They all particularly loved it when we had a Shakespearean insulting duel – and I gave them permission to call their teacher’s a “Pigeon-Egg of Discretion”!

I was lucky enough to watch Macbeth in Bury St Edmunds before I delivered my outreach activities and I was blown away by the whole production: the design, acting, music and sheer comedy they brought to a Shakespearean tragedy was remarkable. This made it easy for me to get people fired up to see it and on Tuesday when the show opened at my venue, The Key Theatre in Peterborough, I was happy to see a healthy sized and diverse audience eagerly awaiting curtain up. By the final bows hearing people cheer filled me with such a sense of achievement and pride for the whole team!

The show and the workshops meant a lot to me because I got to bring people into the theatre who hadn’t ventured there before and for those who participated they felt included as the story was familiar to them, the language wasn’t a barrier and everyone was welcome.

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