Report on The Tempest Drama Project: February/March 2019: Hazel Roy
This was my sixth return to Nepal – but my first visit to the new school in Godavari. I visited the school at its old site in 2014, and had photos from that visit. Some of the children were now young adults, working at the school in different capacities. Early on we felt part of an extended family.
Florence and I had preliminary plans to recreate a children’s version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 3 weeks - a tall order. Our little team of 25 children threw themselves into the drama session with great enthusiasm, enjoying the warm ups the singing exercises and the drama games. But when our adapted version of the text proved daunting, we concentrated instead on conveying the story while allowing the children to create their own dialogue. Slowly we cast the play as we assessed the children’s capabilities, but there were times when I asked myself if I wasn’t a little mad attempting to do this.
We had hoped to perform in the school playground but were not expecting snow so early in our visit – on a day when the temperature reached a record high for February in the UK! However it soon became clear that our plans for the playground competed with a resurfacing project and a visit by students from an international school in Hong Kong to help with the preparation. Meanwhile our cast used their ingenuity, without prompting, creating props like small daggers, floral head-dresses and masks out of next to nothing. On a memorable hike up into the hills the children decorated Florence’s hair with a stunning head-dress of spring blossoms till she resembled Titania the fairy queen! Conveying costume ideas to our seamstress was not easy, though Prospero’s magic cloak was magnificent. I know I tested Florence’s patience on our trips out to hunt down extra items. Many miles were driven to track down 6 plain black Tee shirts for our small team of ‘devils’!
The show risked taking a nose dive when we had to offer a premature performance to the Hong Kong students days before we had ironed out a lot of the problems and it took a lot of energy to pull it back up, but the children coped well with my insistence that they ‘go back and do it again’. I was determined that they gained their applause from audience delight at their performance and not just from encouraging hand clapping. I wanted to convey that every performance matters and that there is always more we can bring to a play. Obviously there were varying level of interest - some were self conscious and uncertain in their roles, others embraced their parts wholeheartedly- the play revealed several with undoubted acting talent. I only wish we had had longer to work on characterization- and that I had summoned the post performance energy to learn a Nepali song and dance effectively.
Ideally the children need a weather-protected space large enough for performances because drama should be at the core of the learning process as there is so much evidence of the educative power of theatre. I first met Haushala when we were engaged as pupil and teacher on a child labor project 17 years ago. I think she would agree that the process was life changing for both of us.
Future volunteers need to be flexible and adjust to a different pace and pattern of life here from what they are used to at home. I was struck with a comment made years ago by the founder of St Xaviers College that if the Nepalese do not complain about something he saw no reason why he should. Exactly so.
I come home, as ever, with huge respect for the warmth, humor, tolerance and resilience of the teachers and pupils and their tremendous achievements in a world that presents so many challenges. Thank you Life Vision and CYF for sharing your home and your life with us for a month. Lastly a huge thank you to all the children for the final performance you prepared for Sandra and myself. Your talents in athletics, singing and dancing are astounding. We felt the love and return it with full measure. You all have a special place in our hearts. We will return!