A smiling student Mary stands in front of The Other Place, a theatre in Stratford.
Mary in Stratford

Mary: Over the course of three days, we got involved with RSC-led workshops, seminars and social events, and experienced the production Hamnet, a stage adaption of Maggie O’Farrell’s novel, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021.

Shakespeare in the Classroom

Vanessa: After lunch, we arrived at the Town hall where I took part in the ‘Shakespeare in the Classroom’ workshop. As a Drama and English student, this workshop was nothing short of fantastic! We were taught how to introduce Shakespeare to children in a fun and inclusive way - by taking snippets and using broad storytelling techniques.

This workshop reminded me why I love English and Drama with its focus on plot and the nature of storytelling. Oftentimes, the vernacular of Shakespeare can be quite daunting, but we went through it slowly to assure that everyone understood and could feel safe and included. Through playing games and going through Macbeth step-by-step, we were eased into a fun learning environment that I am eager to pass on!

Student Vanessa standing in the Green Heart space at the University of Birmingham

Journey Through the RSC Costume

Vanessa: Costume is something that I find truly fascinating, and it was wonderful to listen to how the RSC are working on their sustainability. Through costume hire, reworking the costumes in stock, and using an Ozone Emission Repair machine, the RSC are diminishing their emissions and becoming more environmentally friendly. This was such amazing news because it is so encouraging to see theatre companies taking active and conscious effort to look after the environment!


Vanessa: On the first day, we were lucky enough to watch the RSC’s production of Hamnet in the Swan Theatre, which was sold out before it started! Hamnet tells the tale of Anne (Agnes) Hathaway and her children while Shakespeare was in London producing plays. The passion and talent of the actors, combined with the grandeur of the theatre, transported us all to 17th century England, and captivated our hearts and minds.

students taking part in an ice breaker as part of a royal shakespeare company workshop
"The World of the Play" workshop

Mary: I jumped at the opportunity to see Hamnet at the recently reopened Swan Theatre. The residential provided us with the special opportunity of a Q&A session with the director of the play, Erica Whyman, and one of the actors, Obioma Ugoala (who played Bartholomew). Students asked questions regarding the casting, the staging, the pressure of performing an adaptation of a famous book and many more. I’m so grateful for this chance to chat with the creatives themselves and to know a bit more about both onstage and offstage elements of Hamnet.

Ceilidh (kay-lee) a traditional Scottish dance

Mary: It's quite tricky to choose what the highlight of the trip for me was, but I’d have to say it was the ceilidh. I’d never participated in one before, but I thoroughly enjoyed the energy and overall atmosphere in the hall, and how enthusiastically everyone participated in all the dancing.

There was also a wide selection of funky hats to wear, which I believe enhanced the goofy fun of it all! It made me reminisce about the traditional dance of my culture, a group dance usually held during celebratory events or the Harvest Festival.

seated students taking part in a workshop at the royal shakespeare company
Students at the Uni of Birmingham Shakespeare Institute in Stratford

The World of the Play

Mary: “The World of the Play” workshop began with an icebreaker before we looked at scenes from Macbeth. I was intrigued by the way the actor utilised and tracked the number of beats in each line as a way of interpreting the character’s motivations. In the span of two hours, we covered the ways an actor approaches playing a Shakespearean character, such as attaching transitive verbs to each line as a way of ensuring there was an active intention to each and every word.

Final Remarks

Mary: The Stratford residential brought the literary world alive, almost like those pop-up storybooks do! This was a great opportunity to recalibrate and expand both my literary knowledge and my interest in Shakespeare.

two students viewing blown up stills from various Shakespeare plays, displayed outside the royal shakespeare company
The RSC in Stratford
"Shakespeare Residential Student Vlog" title card - with a picture of the student outside The Other Place Theatre