Our August picks for schools
John Kachoyan - AustralianPlays.org Literary Manager
The two plays I have chosen this month are for opposite ends of the schools spectrum. Magic Box by playwright, actor and teacher Ned Manning is for the younger end of the spectrum and is written specifically to introduce young children to the magic of Shakespeare, while Habibti by actor, playwright and director Matt Edgerton is a senior high school work about a coming of age story of Leila, a 15 year old Lebanese-Australian girl.
Magic Box is one of a series of plays Ned Manning wrote for Bell Shakespeare’s Actors at Work education program (we have the whole series online should you be looking for more of these). Designed for primary school age students, Magic Box takes the students into the world of Shakespeare and introduces them to the themes and tropes of Shakespeare’s plays. These texts were originally written to be performed by ‘grown-ups’ for primary aged kids, but I think there could be a way in which upper primary, or lower secondary age students could have a ball tackling all or part of this script. Great characters and skilled writing make for a great fun experience - with rich learning potential as well.
Habibti by Matt Edgerton was the runner-up in the Australian Theatre for Young People National Playwrighting Competition. I should say straight up that this play does use coarse language – only in the way that many young people do on a day-to-day basis, but if language is an issue, this play may not be for you. But it is gritty and very alive. It tackles the fear of terrorism and the threat of racism in contemporary Australia with great humour and compassion. A coming-of-age play with a female protagonist, this is a really terrific piece for the right group. Edgerton is an acting graduate from WAAPA who has also directed extensively for Bell Shakespeare in the Actors at Work program as well as independent work in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. This is a highly intelligent and strong piece. If you have a sophisticated, fearless and open-minded group in year 11 or 12, this could be the piece for you.
Tom Healey, Literary Manager