Shakespeare’s not too tough for kids

Jack Murray of Shakespeare's Globe believes children can appreciate the Bard's language through storytelling.
Jack Murray of Shakespeare's Globe believes children can appreciate the Bard's language through storytelling.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Singapore Philatelic Museum partners Shakespeare's Globe for its storytelling sessions, part of programmes related to an exhibition on the Bard

"Am I not thy lord?" belts out a group of male actors, stamping their feet in anger.

"Then I must be thy lady," respond their female counterparts, channelling a queenly swagger with their hands on their hips.

Performed in the Singapore Philatelic Museum, this is Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with a slight twist - these animated actors, playing King Oberon and Queen Titania at loggerheads, are six-year-old kindergarteners.

Jack Murray, 36, an actor and educator from Shakespeare's Globe in London, believes that the Bard's language can be appreciated not just by adults but also by young children.

Last Friday's cast of the Shakespearean comedy, set in a magical forest, was a group of children from PCF Henderson-Dawson and My First Skool in Jurong West participating in a storytelling workshop.

"Yes, it's English as it was spoken 400 years ago. But 90 per cent of the words are words that we use all the time," says Murray.

  • BOOK IT / THE WORLD'S A STAGE WORKSHOP

  • WHERE: Singapore Philatelic Museum, 23-B Coleman Street WHAT: An immersive look into Shakespeare's world, which includes meeting characters from his plays, dressing up as a Shakespearean character and experimenting with his inventive language. For seven to 12-year-olds

    WHEN: Saturday, 2.30 to 4.30pm

    ADMISSION: $35, 10 per cent off for two children or more

    LIVELY ACTION STORYTELLING

    WHAT: Interactive and action-filled storytelling sessions to help deepen a child's understanding of Shakespeare's timeless tales. For five to 12-year-olds.

    WHEN: Saturday, 9.30 to 10.30am and 11am to noon

    ADMISSION: $20, 10 per cent off for two children or more

    A TUDOR FAYRE OPEN HOUSE

    WHAT: Enjoy storytelling sessions, music performances using music from Shakespeare's time, dress-up sessions and more.

    WHEN: Sunday, 10am to 7pm

    ADMISSION: Free, with some chargeable activities

    INFO: E-mail Laura_Tan@nhb.gov. sg to register for the paid story telling sessions or go to www.facebook.com/SingaporePhilatelicMuseum

"The rest may be more tricky for children. But if they start to understand it when they are five or six, when they get to 15 and have to study it and write about it, it won't seem like such a barrier."

The storytelling session is part of a series of programmes related to the museum's exhibition, Shaking It With Shakespeare.

The exhibition gives an insight into William Shakespeare the man, what life was like during his time and his literary contributions.

The exhibition, which commemorates the playwright's 400th death anniversary this year, runs till Jan 15. Admission is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The museum has partnered with Shakespeare's Globe for its storytelling sessions and workshops, which will take place until Sunday .

Murray's Lively Action Storytelling sessions held tomorrow and on Saturday will encourage youngsters to act out scenes from Shakespeare's plays.

He will also be performing the plays Twelfth Night and Henry V on Sunday as part of A Tudor Fayre Open House at the museum.

The free event, modelled on the typical pastimes of people from the Tudor period (1485 - 1603) in England, also includes music performances using instruments from Shakespeare's time, such as the lute, as well as opportunities to dress as a character from his plays.

The Globe Education team, which Murray has been part of for the past 10 years, aims to make everyone's first Shakespeare experience positive by making it "a more active experience for the children".

He says: "Often the experience of teaching Shakespeare is quite desk-bound. That can be, for a lot of people, quite a negative experience because his plays are not actually books to be read - they are stories to be shared and to be played with."

This interactivity is extended to the exhibition. Visitors can put together a meal that a rich person from Shakespeare's time might enjoy, find out what tanning leather smells like (Shakespeare's father was a leather glove maker) and listen to snippets of performances of his plays.

Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, the museum's director, says: "This exhibition gives an insight into Shakespeare, not just about his plays but also about him - who is Shakespeare? We don't know that much about him. This is a starting point for the young ones and a reminder for adults who know about him."

In line with the museum's focus on philately, there are more than 400 stamps and philatelic materials on display related to the man. For example, stamps bearing his likeness tell people what he might have looked like, in the absence of official records.

For Mr Murray, exhibitions such as these are a reminder of what Shakespeare means to people all around the world and the new ways in which his works can be enjoyed. In particular, he thinks storytelling keeps the Bard's world alive.

He says: "It's a real treat to be told a story."

"For that to still be something we do in this world, where everything is online and on a screen - to have someone talking to you and you can respond to him to his face and he is actually there - that's what theatre is all about." •

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Kids shake with the Bard'. Print Edition | Subscribe