Shakespeare toolkit: The magpie approach

by Kate Friend | 1 September 2016

I am a great Shakespeare enthusiast, so much so that I read every one of his plays while studying him at university (please don’t test me on plot points now). My award for most entertaining plot definitely went to Pericles: incest, shipwreck, brothels and pirates! I have directed several Shakespeare plays including Twelfth Night for the BBC One Night of Shakespeare. I am also lucky enough to have trained with some awesome companies (RSC, Globe Education, The Map Consortium) and have learnt some nifty techniques for exploring Shakespeare with my casts. As both a director and a teacher, I’ve used these exercises time and again so I would like to share some with you now. Ever the magpie, I feel I have accumulated a treasure trove of Shakespeare trinkets and here are some beauties for you to feather your own nests…

Introducing plot

Ensemble statues
Introduce students to key characters by asking them to create various statues: a king, a murderer, a grieving widow, loyal subjects, a young prince etc.

Grandma’s footsteps
Play with key characters e.g. everyone is Macbeth creeping up on Duncan or Grandma is Macbeth, paranoid that everyone is coming for him.

Make me a…
Students create still images showing key locations/events/props e.g. a throne, a dagger, a castle, a battle etc.

Key quotes

Select key lines, full of imagery, for small groups of students to transform into one still image. They should share these with each other and the audience should consider what the image shows before the quote is revealed e.g.

To continue to read this article please login to your ISTA account

This article is for ISTA members only, if you would like to find out about becoming a member please contact us at