Monday, May 10, 2004

Acting Troupe Dedicated To Making History Interesting

"Stewart Hulme's mobile Bluesilver Theatre company is now bringing history alive to schools across the North and Midlands with his plays about key phases in time accompanied by just three other actors, a minimum of props and an extremely tightly-packed Vauxhall Vectra estate.

After participating in No Pasaran (They Shall Not Pass), a play about the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, Hulme designed his first play for schools, Moved East, about the rise of Facism in Germany in the 1930s and its effect upon three young people living there. He began studying the national curriculum, carrying out self-styled market research among teachers about what were the favoured topics.

This spawned three other plays: The Great Dying about the Black Death epidemic in medieval Europe, A Spin o' The Wheel which deals with the Industrial Revolution and Speakeasy, focusing on the prohibition years and the Great Depression in 1930s America.

These 90-minute creations are all primarily designed for secondary schools and are proving to be extremely popular with both the teachers - and more importantly the pupils.

Another actress, Helena Jacks, from Woolton, joins Stewart for the Living Theatre performances, a series of plays written for primary schools by Jean and Peter Davies, from Great Budworth in Cheshire, from whom Bluesilver acquired the rights to perform.

These are far more interactive allowing the children to supplement the acting roles not covered by either Stewart or Helena.

For instance in Tudor Times, Stewart plays Henry VIII and a selection of pupils represent his Six Wives.

In another, The Ancient Greeks, pupils play the soldiers erupting from the Trojan Horse to rescue Helen (Helena).

"The kids really enjoy it," says Stewart. "And we do get through a lot of plastic axes and swords!"

Like Mr. Hulme, I've always been disappointed in history classes that seem to dehumanize a fascinating subject by emphasizing the memorization of names and dates. I think his creative solution to the problem a commendable one.

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