With the subject of Migration becoming more pressing and relevant in twenty-first century Britain, it is vital that we are able to have an informed debate about it, particularly with young people. Drama and performance can become a vehicle for those debates and feelings that we all have around migration.
Fin Kennedy’s new book, Migration Plays explores the theme of migration through four new plays. He explains the background to the book in his introduction here:
“Migration Stories was a Tamasha schools project delivered by playwrights and directors working in several different secondary schools in London and Derby. The format involved twenty-five Drama students from Years 7 to 10 coming off-timetable for a day and participating in exercises designed to unpack their thoughts and feelings on the topic of migration, and encourage them to respond creatively to what they were learning. These sessions were facilitated by the director, with the playwright taking notes. Each playwright then went away and worked up the ideas generated into a twenty-minute script for performance, with parts for the whole class.”
Migration Plays shares these plays along with director notes that you can use with your Drama class. This is then followed by a section of drama games and more involved exercises to generate characters and stories.
Two exercises to try today
Section 1: Exercises to unpack the theme of migration
Exercise: What’s in a name?
Set-up: Participants sit in a circle on chairs or the floor. This is usually the first activity of the workshop.
Teacher instructions: Invite everybody in the circle, one by one, to say their name. It can be their first name, their middle name or their surname. Then go round again and ask each student to share with the group one thing about their name. It could be one of the following:
- What your name means.
- Which language or culture is associated with your name.
- Do you like your name?
- Who gave you your name?
- If you were a boy/girl what would you have been called instead?
- What would you prefer to be called if you weren’t given your name?
Notes: Pupils generally respond very positively to this activity, especially if it is used as the first activity of the workshop. Most people like sharing something about themselves, but of course people can be given the option to ‘pass’. The teacher must be ready to positively respond to each name and to keep this activity flowing. We find that this activity inevitably brings up some migration references, and then these can be explored further in the subsequent activities.
Section 3: Improvisation exercises
Exercise: Creating obstacles and conflict
Set-up: Drama studio or cleared classroom. Whiteboard needed.
Teacher instructions: As a class, make a list of obstacles relating to migration, which might cause some kind of conflict for the migrant. Explain that obstacles and conflict are an important part of drama, because watching characters struggle to get what they want is how they learn and change. The best obstacles are often another character. Write their examples on the whiteboard. The list might include:
- Assembling what they need for a long journey.
- Applying for a visa.
- Booking a boat ticket.
- Saying goodbye to someone they love.
- Finding suitable food.
- Running out of money.
- Preparing for an interview at the border.
- Looking for work.
- Finding somewhere to stay.
- Meeting the locals.
- Communicating with home.
In threes or fours, choose one obstacle and rehearse a short improvisation in which A and B are migrants engaged in this activity. C and/or D stands in their way and could either help them or block them depending on how the scene goes. The dialogue is about A and B trying to persuade C and/or D to give them what they want. Give the group five minutes’ rehearsal time, then watch a few.
After each scene, ask the audience:
- What clues are in the scene about what the nature of the relationship is between the migrant characters?
- What tactics do they use to try to get what they want?
- How are they changed by the experience of dealing with this obstacle?
- What might they try next?
Migration Plays is a Methuen Drama title and was published in August. Purchase your copy or request an inspection copy for your school here.