MA Shakespeare and Creativity student, Ella May McGrail, tells us more about her experience studying at the University of Birmingham.
Why did you choose Shakespeare at the University of Birmingham?
“Studying Shakespeare in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon has been incredible. Being just a short walk away from the RSC theatres and Shakespeare’s Birthplace has really enhanced my studying. I chose the course because of the amazing links UoB has with The RSC. Knowing that on this course I would have the opportunity to be involved with two projects at The RSC theatres made it a very easy decision and I did not apply for anywhere else.”
What has been the highlight of your course?
“The highlight of the course for me was undoubtably the ‘Shakespeare Ensemble’ module, where we were asked to create our own production based on the brief of ‘challenging Shakespeare’. This was the reason I picked the Shakespeare and Creativity MA course in the first place and the experience was even better than I expected. Working intensively with other creatives and knowing that, as a group, we had designed every single element of that production was such a proud achievement for all of us. And personally, getting to perform at RSC The Other Place was a dream come true and I will cherish those memories and friendships forever. Another highlight was when we had a guest lecture from Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, two Shakespearean scholars whom I have admired for a long time. When they came in to speak to us about Shakespeare’s Sonnets, we all sat in awe and none of us wanted the lecture to end.”
What have you learnt from your programme?
“I have learnt so much over the course of my Masters, too much maybe even to mention here. One of my favourite modules was Shakespeare and Theatre Practice, taught by the wonderfully talented Dr. Abigail Rokison-Woodall. In this module, we explored different systematic approaches to performing the language of Shakespeare through a series of exciting practical workshops. We covered techniques from John Barton, Giles Block, Stanislavski, Chekov and Laban. Laban in particular was not something I had ever covered before, and I found his techniques extremely rewarding and productive. The module resulted in us all performing two extracts from Shakespeare’s plays; I chose Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a duologue scene from The Taming of the Shrew between Kate and Petruchio with a partner. Our examination day was so much fun as we all got to share our work with one another in a supportive atmosphere.”
What is life like as a student at the Shakespeare Institute?
“Student life at the Shakespeare Institute is wonderful. The staff are all extremely talented, knowledgeable and at the same time, friendly and supportive. Being in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon really enhances student life as there are often discounted tickets available to students for the RSC, and there are amazing events and lectures being held at the Institute and at the Birthplace Trust, just up the road. One of the most fantastic events I have been to, was when the outstanding actress Harriet Walter came to visit the Birthplace Trust to talk about her book Brutus and Other Heroines. Her lecture was magnificent, and afterwards she answered all of our questions and signed copies of her book. It was an evening I shall never forget.”