VIDEO: RSC Actors Help Students Studying Shakespeare Under Lockdown

By: Apr. 27, 2020
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As part of the newly launched Royal Shakespeare Community initiative, artists from the Royal Shakespeare Company, who are currently unable to rehearse or perform, will lend a hand in helping to unlock Shakespeare for thousands of children and young people studying at home.

Launching today, with a personal message from RSC Acting Alumni Tamsin Greig, Patrick Stewart and Noma Dumezweni, the RSC's Homework Help initiative gives young people everywhere the opportunity to pose questions about Shakespeare and drama studies to working actors and alumni from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Those responding to questions and offering top tips on how to tackle the language include David Bradley - star of the Harry Potter film series, Doctor Who and Broadchurch star David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu who played the title role of Hamlet in Simon Godwin's 2016 production for the RSC (soon to be broadcast on the BBC) and RSC Associate Artists Niamh Cusack and Charlotte Arrowsmith, who recently made RSC history as the first deaf actor to understudy a hearing role in Justin Audibert's 2019 production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Those wishing to pose questions are asked to email them to, or share their questions using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by no later than Sun 10 May. A selection of video or written answers from RSC actors will be shared via the RSC website from 11 May to coincide with the first BBC Bitesize Teaching Shakespeare week which will focus on Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

RSC Director of Education, Jacqui O'Hanlon said: "As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the closure of UK schools, many young people will be working from home. We know this can feel isolating and demotivating and we want to ensure we do everything we can to support and inspire them.

"Every year, RSC Education reaches over 500,000 young people who experience, first-hand, the extraordinary power of Shakespeare's language in their school and the local community.

"As children and parents across the UK adjust to their new 'virtual classrooms', this gives us a new challenge and opportunity to extend our support and to work with artists from the RSC's performance history. They will answer any questions young people want answered about Shakespeare and theatre generally."

Artistic Director Gregory Doran added: "Although the RSC is in lockdown and operating with a skeleton team, it is important that we continue to offer support to students, families and teachers across the country. Our acting companies and Associate Artists are helping us to deliver 'Homework Help' with a difference, serving young people in their time of need and unlocking the transformative power of Shakespeare for a generation who are living through unprecedented times.

"To help support this work, we are asking people to consider making a donation to our home learning programme. We understand it is a difficult time for many people. However, the impact of school closures means that every gift will make a very real difference to thousands of young people. To make a gift go to We also encourage you to do anything you can to support your local theatre wherever it is in the country, helping ensure it can continue to share great work with its audiences.".

"The RSC is grateful for the range of funders including the Arts Council, who support this vital work."


Coinciding with the start of the new school term, the Royal Shakespeare Company will also play host to a Live Lesson of Macbeth on You Tube between 11am-12pm on Tues 28 April. Students, teachers and parents across the UK will get the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the 2018 production directed by Polly Findlay and starring Chris Eccleston and Niamh Cusack as Lord and Lady Macbeth. They will see first-hand how The Acting Company and creative team approached key sections of the play and why certain decisions were made.

Suitable for KS2 - KS4, the live lesson will be accompanied by a supporting Q & A with actor Niamh Cusack and Assistant Director Peter Bradley, focusing on key speeches from Act 1, Scene 5 and the role of Lady Macbeth. After the lesson, RSC actors Joseph Arkley, Edward Bennett, Niamh Cusack and Laura Elsworthy will be on hand to answer any questions pupils may have about the play and performing at the RSC.

The Live Lesson will be accompanied by a newly launched series of 15-minute Activity Toolkits focused around the six RSC productions now available on BBC Iplayer as part of Culture in Quarantine. These include Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice (see full detail below).

Home-learners can explore games, images, videos and galleries arranged by play title by accessing the award-winning Shakespeare Learning Zone, an interactive web resource featuring comprehensive materials arranged by play title. A selection of educational videos is also available to access via the RSC YouTube channel. These include introductions to language terms such as iambic pentameter, actor-lead tutorials exploring the techniques they use to get to grips with a text and full online performances including Tim Crouch's I, Cinna.

Teachers can also access a range of supporting resources via the RSC website including teacher packs by play and Key Stage.

Schools, colleges and universities can also take advantage of an extended trial of Drama Online before the end of May 2020, featuring twenty-two titles from The RSC Live Collection. Home-educators can also access up to seventeen RSC productions in partnership with Digital Theatre + alongside supporting resources including backstage insights, practitioner interviews, written analysis and over 450+ productions of the world's finest theatre.


Following this week's launch of BBC Bitesize's daily programme of online lessons, the RSC is working in partnership with the BBC to deliver two-focused weeks of GCSE lesson plans themed around Shakespeare's Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, The Shakespeare weeks take place between Monday 11 - Friday 15 May and Monday 15 - Friday 19 June.

The weeks will involve daily Shakespeare lessons developed by the RSC for Year 10 students to help unlock Shakespeare's work and language. Focussing on Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, the lessons will offer special insights from RSC actors and directors about how to decode Shakespeare's language and bring 400-year-old plays to life for today's audiences.

BBC Bitesize Daily is the BBC's enhanced offering designed to support the curriculum and educational needs of children across the nation during the current Coronavirus pandemic. It will deliver a tailored day of learning across BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Bitesize website and app, BBC Four and BBC Sounds, with content relevant to the curriculum across the UK. Together, this comprehensive package is aimed at minimising disruption to children's education and providing rhythm and routine in these challenging times.

The Shakespeare teaching weeks are in addition to the six RSC plays that will be broadcast by the BBC as part of its Culture in Quarantine programme. The plays, which have all been chosen to link into the curriculum, include Hamlet (2016, directed by Simon Godwin, with Paapa Essiedu in the title role); Macbeth (2018, directed by Polly Findlay, with Christopher Ecclestone in the title role and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth); Much Ado About Nothing (2014, directed by Christopher Luscombe, with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice); Othello (2015, directed by Iqbal Khan, with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago); Romeo and Juliet (2018, directed by Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, with Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet); and The Merchant of Venice (2015, directed by Polly Findlay, with Makram J. Khoury as Shylock)


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