Rosa admiring the costumes
Rosa admiring the costumes

How to turn reluctant kids into Shakespeare fans

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In her second Stratford-upon-Avon based review, Kids in Museums volunteer Caroline Marcus took her ten year-old daughter, Rosa, to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Into the Wild exhibition.

Reluctant Rosa recently stood outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre watching the marching band in Shakespeare’s uplifting birthday parade. ‘’What’s the big deal about Shakespeare?’’ she asked.

Presented with a creative challenge, we set off to discover the Bard’s appeal through exploring a Blood Guts and Gore workshop and the new Into the Wild Exhibition at the RSC.

Free family activities included music in the theatre’s public spaces, craft activities, storytelling, theatre skills workshops and actors speaking Shakespeare’s sonnets on the ferry. We chose the gory workshop where the former RSC Head of Wigs and Make-up, demonstrated how to create fake bruises, cuts and scars on willing participants.

Grisly and gruesome secrets included how to stab Julius Caesar so that blood spurts over his white toga and how to look like a battle-weary pirate with bruises and scars. In King Lear, eyes are gouged out and we discovered that pigs’ eyeballs, fresh from the butcher, are good for this on stage. If not in stock, lychees will do, with a bit of tinned tomato and food colour added. Jelly works well for cut-out tongues such as in Titus Andronicus and bubble wrap creates a convincing sound of a broken neck. We were warned not to try real demonstrations at home!

Top tips shared included how to create sick using packet vegetable soup or custard and to make convincing poo from oats so simple and coffee!

Needless to say, Rosa was warming to Shakespeare! Even more so, when she sat on the RSC’s insult chair and heard Shakespeare at his rudest.

We next ventured Into the Wild, a new exhibition exploring Shakespeare’s natural world through costume. We saw costumes such as Dr. Who star, David Tennant’s, from the 1996 As You Like It.

All costumes are made in house and each gorgeous piece involves skills such as tailoring, dyeing, printing, leatherwork, beading, corsetry, millinery, mask and jewellery making. Some of our favourite things included the passionate guides; the stitched, fabric text labels, the nature motifs and the woodland soundscape. The earthy nature theme continued in the current production of As You Like It, a fun-filled hippie inspired romp capturing the magic of the Forest of Arden.

Rosa decided that the “big deal about Shakespeare” is that he was a brilliant storyteller. His appeal is that even today he continues to inspire costumiers, actors and family visitors to the RSC in creative, exciting and gruesome ways.

Into the Wild is on at the RSC from 20 April and is part of the In Stitches Exhibition. Entry is free.

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