We’re all bored of saying it… but ‘the Covid pandemic changed everything.’
This now well-voiced phrase has been used across the world by governments, businesses and even call centres. It’s meaning has become something associated with disruption, poor quality and general negativity. However, the use of virtual teaching and workshop delivery that has emerged from that initial pandemic chaos seems to be opening new doors to working with students from other parts of the world and in turn having a positive environmental impact.
I still look back at those lockdown days with dread, wondering how we got through all those months behind closed doors. One thing we at Highly Sprung were determined not to do was stop. Our workshops went online and we beamed our classes across Coventry and Warwickshire. Much like many of you reading this, we adapted. Our practice developed and we were made to think outside the box when it came to engaging children and young people in physical theatre… a practice based in contact and connection with others. Since those dark days our doors have been flung open and we have welcomed students young and old to join us in devising work and we haven’t, for one second, contemplated going back to teaching online.
So, when we were approached by International School Theatre Association to work with St Andrew’s High School in Thailand and return to the virtual classroom to deliver a workshop based on immersive theatre, we did so with a certain amount of trepidation.
Due to the time difference, the alarm went off at 4:00am and we were online teaching from our base at Daimler Powerhouse from 6:00am. Within just a few seconds Sarah and I were back in the zone where students followed online and the two of us demonstrated clearly, concisely, with close ups to camera, a Powerpoint presentation, and the ever tricky Q+A. The work created and generated by the young theatre makers was brilliant, especially from a group who have never had the opportunity to experience immersive work first hand. We explored the power of possibility and discovered the freedom that this form of performance generation brings. More importantly, the group identified immersive theatre as the opportunity to break the rules that traditional theatre has established over hundreds of years.
Breaking rules……. Whilst delivering the workshop, I realised that we too, in our workshop were breaking the rules. No longer were we sitting in a circle, the staple of any performing arts class. We were delivering the tasks via a projector screen thousands of miles away, and Highly Sprung a physical theatre company couldn’t have been further away from the participants, there was no physical contact. Yet, there was an incredible connection between the workshop material, the young people and us the deliverers. A lot of praise should be directed to the class teacher, Mr Heron who supported, stewarded, and cajoled the young people into action brilliantly throughout our time together.
“It was the best fun with the most useful range of activities we’ve had all year. Highly recommended!”
This positive experience has really helped open our eyes to the power of connectivity that can be generated through a Zoom screen. Yes, it’s not the easiest of ways to deliver a theatre-based workshop, but in a world where we need to limit air travel, where more and more of our young people need a connection with the arts and people outside of their usual circle, this exciting way of teaching, reaching across the world, needs to be explored and utilised more….
Maybe this is the positive that we can all take from that phrase ‘the Covid pandemic changed everything.’