Excuses, Excuses…

Following on from their memorable performance during the Form 4 Drama Week, Mrs McGrory’s English group have now turned their hand to scripting their own plays. Writing a successful playscript is in many ways even harder than constructing a piece of narrative because the story still needs to be fast paced and engaging, without the author having access to the conventional storytelling tools. Nevertheless, everyone was desperate to have a go to see what they could produce.

The lesson started with a recap on how to set out a playscript. Layout is extremely important, as is the correct use of punctuation and stage directions. Mrs McGrory wanted to emphasise how adverbs can be used to make characters’ feelings much clearer to the reader or audience. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for the children, however, was to produce narrative that actually developed the story, rather than being merely a ding-dong of conflicting ideas.

In the previous lesson, Mrs McGrory introduced the children to the beginning of a playscript entitled The Reluctant Swimmer. In it, a boy called James does his utmost to persuade his mother that she should not take him swimming. The class noted carefully how Mum dealt with James’ reluctance, and had other helpful parenting tips for her, such as making her son feel guilty and shaming him into swimming by comparing him unfavourably with the other children at school. Members of the group were equally inventive when it came to thinking of the excuses James could use to evade his swimming lesson. Neeve thought of appendicitis or a foot encrusted with verrucas. Zakir wondered whether he might have left his trunks at school, whilst Ollie suggested painful arthritis in his knees, most alarming in a boy of his age.

When it came to sitting down to pen the playscript, the children were faced with a further challenge – how to convey Mum’s numerous calls to James to hurry up without repeating what had been said already. Once again, some effective solutions were put forward. “Come here this instant!” was Caiden’s no nonsense offering, and Josh’s suggestion pulled no punches either. “You’re just being ridiculous if you think I’m doing what you say!” Amelia’s approach was more stick than carrot. “I’ll take all your privileges away from you if you don’t go!” she threatened fiercely.

Having completed their playscripts, as a final exercise the children were organised into pairs or threes and had to choose a playscript to rehearse and perform. Mrs McGrory was pleased how well the children co-operated to make this decision. In the time available, it was difficult to do much more than a basic read through. Daniel, Gurnek and Zakir, however, were thrilled with their ideas of having James build a robot dummy and slip him into Mum’s car in his place. Poor Mum didn’t realise that the so-called child in the back was talking and acting rather strangely. Daniel gave a stellar performance as the dummy, earning a warm round of applause from his classmates.

The children have realised how rewarding playscripts are to write, as well as how much fun they can have with them. They will now have the opportunity to develop and polish their playscripts. You never know, The Reluctant Swimmer might be opening at a theatre near you soon but, if all else fails, the children have learnt a whole new set of excuses to use at home on their parents.