Shakespeare refresher aids south-west teachers, students

FAR from the amphitheatres and campuses, Shakespeare draws little more than a glazed eye in a high school classroom. 

South-west teachers Judy Cavanough and Liam Geary know the struggle well. 

Making a classic garbled in a dialect centuries old is no easy task and increasingly teachers rely on films to teach it. 

Both want to change that, winning scholarships to the nationally-acclaimed Bell Shakespeare company to find new ways of making plays like Romeo and Juliet come alive. “For English and drama teachers, we all tend to teach Shakespeare in the same way,” said Ms Cavanough, a Warrnambool College teacher. 

“It’s to freshen up ideas. It’s a four-day practical workshop with Bell Shakespeare collaborating with other students.

“I haven’t taught much Shakespeare, only Romeo and Juliet which we all teach in the curriculum. 

“I can see teachers falling back on videos to recontextualise it and make it more accessible.”

The teachers will head to Sydney for the workshop in March. 

With a background in English, drama and physical education, Ms Cavanough isn’t content to use films.

“I want to put some physicality to it so they’re not just sitting at a desk trying to decipher the language,” she said.

Terang College teacher Liam Geary knows the heavy passages stop eyes dead. 

“It’s heavy going and that’s the barrier, the Shakespearian language,” he said. 

“I think acting it out would help them identify with the characters.”

s.mccomish@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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