Monday, April 11, 2005

glyndebourne education

My trip to England was framed by The Great British Rail Flop. It was also drenched in dew, laced with wood anenomes, tinted newborn green, accompanied by the bleating of lambs and the ever transforming aria of a blackbird, and washed down with a couple of really good pints.

Oh, England! How lush thou art, and how crap thy transport system.

The Glyndebourne Education weekend was (ironically perhaps, as you may find out later) based on the story of Cinderella, which opera, in Rossini's version, Glyndebourne will be presenting this autumn. It was our chance to be participants in the kind of workshops we lead - to take our shoes off and pad around THE SPACE as ugly sisters or fairy Godmothers; to become the pumpkin and explore the inner slipper. It was held in the flint mansion of West Dean College set in Capability Brown gardens, and it was tremendous fun.

In the morning, to warm up our left brain, we played word association games and created a circle of improvised voices with sexy riffs supporting swathes of wild solos. In the afternoon we split into groups and were given a piece of text from various sources of the tale:

"And the second sister cut off her heal also so that the shoe might fit"; "The ravens pecked out their eyes"; "Cinderella washed the blood from the floor"...etc.

Exploring the words first in tableau, then in an improvised musical theatre piece, my group became fascinated with the thin line between self mutilation and beautification, and came up with a modern day Cinders set in a plastic surgery clinic. Building up a rhythmic ostinato, the line of doctors scraped instruments (percussion symbolising surgical) and repeated their task in a short musical phrase whilst their patient answered with their sung body part. ("Blow it up" "Boob job" "Blow it up" "Boob job" or " Stitch it up""Liposuction" etc). Above this Nurse Cinders and the Handsome Consultant improvised a love duet. It was a masterpiece!

It has been a long time since many of us put ourselves on the line like this. I, like everyone else, was scared - of performing, of chaos, of failing, of making a fool of myself. However, what never ceases to amaze me is that, with a scrap of text from a fairy tale, and the space and the opportunity to do it, the creative spirit in all of us opens its wings and flies.

The joy of having created something from nothing had dissolved the worry (or in my case BR stress) lines from all our faces. For that moment we were as open as lambs.

I had seen this effect before, on the stimulated creases of kids' smiles and in the wonder in their eyes as they left a school hall having not only opened their mouths and sung, but having composed an opera for the first time.

If anyone seeks a way to empower children in education, this is surely a it. Fast track.


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