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Teaching Unit 1

Sample exploration 1: Outsiders


Student Book pages 62-68

Programme of Study coverage

Explorative strategies: Still imaging, thought-tracking, hot-seating, narrating, marking the moment, role-play, cross-cutting, forum theatre Drama mediums: space and levels, movement, spoken language, mask Elements of drama: characterisation, pace, convention, contrast, plot


Film: The film The Elephant Man (1980) directed by David Lynch (the still from The Elephant Man can be found on SB page 62; search the Web or YouTube for trailers) Photograph: Cap and hood worn by Joseph Merrick (SB page 62) TV documentary: I Am The Elephant Man: A Bodyshock Special, Channel 4 (SB page 63) Poem: 'Witch Spawn', Beth Cross (SB page 64) Artefact: Wood engraving showing the witch-finder Matthew Hopkins (SB page 64) Play text: Flight Path by David Watson (Faber & Faber, 2007) (SB page 67) N.B. Video clips demonstrating extracts from an exploration in response to the theme of Outsiders and The Elephant Man are provided on DVD 1 of the Edexcel GCSE Drama Exploration and Performance DVD Pack.

Learning objectives

To know how to explore a theme using both contemporary and historical material To understand how to use drama to look beyond disability and to make comparisons between past and present attitudes To know how to use still images, space and levels to explore the issues raised by the film To recognise how the use of cross-cutting can convey meaning To recognise how working in role in a whole class improvisation can deepen understanding of emotions To know how to use forum theatre to explore different viewpoints

Learning outcomes

Include contemporary and historical materials inventively in exploring the stimulus Create subtle drama that explores the issue of disability and compares attitudes evocatively Use still image, space and levels in an imaginative response to the film Be able to identify significant points for cross-cutting in order to create impact and meaning Works effectively as part of a whole class role-play, showing understanding of how the role-play explores emotions Contribute to a forum theatre exercise through participation in role or as an adviser

Activity 1: Stimuli: film and photograph (SB pages 62-63)

The film The Elephant Man, directed by David Lynch, is based on a true story. The film explores the life of John Merrick, a heavily disfigured Victorian man who was rescued from being displayed as a 'freak' in a circus. The tag line of the film is 'I am not an animal! I am a human being!' The cap and hood worn by the real John (Joseph) Merrick, now in the Royal London Hospital museum, was a 'mask' presenting a different 'face' to the public. 1. 2. Discuss a film extract and/or the still depicting Merrick. Encourage students to reflect on why people treated Merrick as a 'freak'. Examine the concept of 'the mask'. Would we treat Merrick differently today? Students work individually in a space using body shape and facial expression to create a still image of John Merrick. Encourage students to consider how the deformity gave Merrick a twisted shape. How can levels convey this? Present and evaluate. 3. In a group, create a still image of the scene from the film where children taunt Merrick at the station. Bring this to life and use the convention of slow motion to mark the moment when they pull the hood from his head. Other strategies can be combined with the still image, for example narration to describe the scene or thought-tracking to reveal Merrick's feelings. Develop this further by creating additional still images depicting key moments in Merrick's life.

Activity 2: Relating the stimulus to wider issues

1. Discussion the issue of physical deformity. Nowadays we would not display people with physical deformities in a circus, but some TV programmes do expose people with physical defects. This is often justified as 'helping' the people or 'educating' the public. Consider the following questions: · · · 2. How do we respond to those with physical deformities in modern society? Is it right to intrude on the privacy of people who have physical differences? Would we pay to watch a freak show nowadays?


Role-play and cross-cut to explore the issue of people's response to deformity. · In groups of four or five role-play a scene where the nurses at Whitechapel Hospital discuss Merrick's deformities. Why are they afraid to touch him? How might he express his reactions? Cross-cut using the convention of flashback to show images playing in Merrick's memory, for example, the taunting of the children at the station or the reactions of the crowd at the freak show. Alternatively, groups could create a piece of drama based on the stimulus that explores responses to deformity, selecting their own explorative strategies.




A Channel 4 documentary, I Am The Elephant Man: A Bodyshock Special, was made about a Chinese man afflicted with the same condition as John Merrick. Even the trailers for the programme provoked some passionate responses. Discuss the concept of this programme with students and share the comments below: I am appalled that TV stations can broadcast the details of this grotesque condition. What about the privacy and dignity of the unfortunate individual? The trailer for this programme was deeply disturbing. It was screened at a time when my children were watching. What is to be gained from such programmes? I wonder whether the cynical broadcaster is simply seeking to increase viewer ratings. Our society seems obsessed with others' misfortunes.


Explain the work of a 'feature writer' - a journalist who writes an article that is researched in advance, as opposed to reporting the news. In pairs role-play an interview where a feature writer from a national newspaper questions a representative from Channel 4 about the reasons for making this documentary. Alternatively, students could role-play a telephone call where an outraged viewer phones Ofcom to protest about the programme. Share some examples of the pairs' work and evaluate. Focus on the use of gesture, voice and spoken language.

Documentary response notes

· · Write brief notes about the interview, perhaps jotting down some examples of the spoken language. Write two comments about the work of another pair.

Activity 3: Stimuli: poem and artefact (SB pages 64-65)

In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was common practice for people to be hunted down if there was a suspicion that they might be a witch. In the poem 'Witch Spawn', Beth Cross tells the story of a young girl accused of witchcraft. There are similarities between this poem and Caryl Churchill's 1978 play Vinegar Tom. Arthur Miller's The Crucible also links with this theme. This activity makes links between the stimuli: Hopkins and witch-hunting are historical facts, whereas the poem is fiction inspired by past events. In the poem the 'witch' is burned, whereas Hopkins' victims were hanged. Beth Cross explores the idea that men accused women of witchcraft as a means of revenge. 1. Read the poem and examine the engraving. Discuss attitudes to witchcraft at this time. Why did people believe so strongly in witches? What is Beth Cross suggesting in her poem?

2. Whole-class role-play. The bullet points below extend the role-play activity on page 65 of the Student Book. · Each student is in role as a member of a village in 1680 that is gripped by the fear of witches: for example, a minister, a midwife or a farmer. Roles can be prepared on pieces of card and distributed to students, ensuring a balance of different characters. After distributing roles ask each student to find a partner and, in role, discuss the rumour that a girl in the village has been exposed as a witch. At a given signal students change partners, remaining in role and building on the information gained from the previous conversation. Continue to signal changes of partner until students have developed belief in the roles and the rumours are becoming more and more embellished. One or two students are selected for separate briefing (where they are given information or tasks that are not shared with the rest of the group) and given enhanced roles as the instigators of the rumour. The girl stands accused of causing the failure of the farmer's crops: she was seen making a doll by plaiting the corn.




Teacher in role can be used as a technique to question the villagers' attitudes and to deepen their thinking. Pause the action and discuss the villagers' responses. Spotlight some characters to speak their thoughts aloud.

Activity 4: Developing the drama (SB page 65)

1. This activity is intended to deepen the belief in the roles. Create a scene when Hopkins is brought into the village. Students remain in role and improvise spontaneously in response to Hopkins' questions and actions. The roles of Hopkins and the accused girl could be given to able or talented students. · One student, or teacher in role, takes on the role of Hopkins and another student becomes the accused girl. Others continue to play their villager roles. Role-play the scene where Hopkins is brought into the village to seek out the witch. Students work in groups of four or five to explore the villagers' reactions to Hopkins and to the accusation. Do they suspect the girl? Could it be revenge for a family feud? Hopkins visits each group asking questions.

· · · 2.

Evaluate the exploration: · · How did the whole-class role-play build belief in character? Did students feel more emotionally involved in the roles than when working in smaller groups?

Documentary response notes

· · Note the comments made during the evaluation. Make brief notes on how you felt in role during this sustained improvisation.

Activity 5: Using forum theatre to explore viewpoints (SB page 65)

1. Divide the villagers into two groups. Group 1 support Hopkins and suspect the girl. Group 2 do not want the witchfinder in their community and think that the girl is innocent. Play the scene where Hopkins takes the girl from her house and she protests her innocence. The team can stop the action at any point and give advice to their actor or someone can take over the role.

Activity 6: Evaluating the response to this stimulus (SB page 65)

1. Evaluation: What did the forum theatre reveal about character?

Documentary response notes

· Comment briefly on the creation of the whole-class role-play. · Show how the stimulus informed your role. · Add short examples of spoken language. · How did the drama exploration make you think differently about accusation and revenge?

Activity 7: Stimulus: Live theatre production (SB page 66)

Stimulus: Flight Path by David Watson (produced by Out of Joint and directed by Naomi Jones at The Bush Theatre, London 2007).


In this play, Danny is a 25-year-old man with Down's syndrome. The play traces the story of Danny's family and the strains on their relationships. Danny's father (Sean) leaves, his mother (Susan) needs to work and Jonathan, Danny's 18-year-old brother, feels pressured to take responsibility for Danny. Research In the production of Flight Path Scott Swadkins played the role of Danny. Scott is a disabled actor who had been in short films but this was his first stage appearance. Find out about specialist actor training for the learning disabled from Mind the Gap (

Activity 8: Discussing the extract (SB page 67)

1. · · · 2. Read the extract (SB page 66 or pages 24 and 25, Flight Path by David Watson, Faber & Faber) with students then discuss: how the dialogue reflects Danny's disability responses to Jonathan's attitude to his brother how Danny feels about his father. In pairs role-play the following scenes: · · Danny's conversation with his mother before she left for work Jonathan's discussion with his father about responsibility for Danny.

Share some examples and evaluate the use of language and the emotional responses to the situation. 3. Hot-seat some of the central characters to discover their feelings about the issues raised in the play.

Activity 9: Explore the issues (SB page 67)

1. This play raises some important issues about responsibility for disabled family members and society's attitudes to disability. The plot of Flight Path reveals that because Danny is 25 and an adult he is no longer eligible for a residential school. He is unhappy at his adult independent living centre and, at the start of the play, returns to his family. Use forum theatre to examine Danny's return to live with his family, giving consideration to their attitudes and responsibilities. Divide the class into four groups. Group A represents Mother (Susan). Group B represents Father (Sean). Group C represents Jonathan. Group D represents Danny. One student from each group is chosen to begin the scene. Each group sits on one side of a square space.

Role-play the following scenes starting with the first line of dialogue. Scene 1: Danny and Jonathan


Who should look after me today?


Scene 2: Sean and Susan


You spend lots of time sorting out other people's problems because you're a social worker. Why don't yo spend more time helping your own family? Scene 3: Jonathan and Susan JONATHAN: Do you expect me to look after Danny or work for my A-levels and open up opportunities for the future? Scene 4: Danny and Sean


When you met a younger woman and left us, did you think what would happen to me? Members

of the teams can stop the action and either give advice or take over the role. 2. Evaluate the forum theatre. Discuss what was discovered about attitudes to Danny. Is he an outsider? If so, who is excluding him? How could Danny feel included and valued in the family?

Documentary response notes

· Write about the forum theatre work. Give some examples of the dialogue and comment on how this revealed emotions and attitudes. Evaluate the way vocal tone, movement and gesture were used in the role play. Was it difficult to express a view, in role, that you did not hold? Was this challenging? Discuss the process of the forum theatre exercise. Why was the drama interrupted at certain moments? Who stopped the scene and what did they suggest? Make some personal comments about the issues and show how the exploration changed or confirmed your own attitudes to disability in modern society.

· ·



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