The play of ‘The Fatal Shore’ was introduced to us with just the word put up onto an overhead projector. The class brainstormed their ideas of what they thought this meant, people came up with words such as death, sea, and sand, this was effective as it brought our imaginations into the work and everybody got a chance to listen to other people and adapt on their own ideas. When we had all thought up our ideas we were told what ‘Fatal Shore’ was actually all about, that it was brought about in Georgian England and that criminals were transported to spend the duration of their punishment away from England.
We were given an example of a man, aged 20 years, who had stolen a silk bonnet and other goods, for this, his sentence was either hanging or transportation for 7 years. This was shocking to the class and it stuck in our minds, one pupil said that they couldn’t believe they got sent away, for so long, for committing such minor crimes. We then got into small groups and each one was given a title to look at. The titles were: – Punishment, The Loneliness of Man, The voyage and Fatal shore. With these we had to use imagery, and interpret what we thought the title meant in a few still images. This was effective because we all worked well as groups and it gave us a better understanding of what went on, on the ship.
We used a warm up exercise called Captain’s coming where our teacher would shout north, east, south or west and we’d run to the side of the room that had been designated as each of the directions. Our teacher, used teacher in role as an officer on the ship, and we would be convicts if we were one of the last people to get to the side, he would punish us by telling us to row or scrub the decks. This was effective because it was fun and it helped us concentrate on the more serious work that we did later on.
We looked at a text extract from fatal shore, about the harbour and the exiles. We were read the extract, while we all created a still image, of what we thought it would be like there, how bad the conditions were and how depressing it was, our still image would be brought to life with thought tracking, which was effective because we empathised with how the convicts must have felt. We used lights and sound effects in this section to create a realistic atmosphere.
In another lesson we used tableaux and thought tracking to show a scene in the hold of the ship, Our teacher came around the room and tapped random members of the group on the shoulder and asked them questions such as, why they were there, how they felt and when was the last time they saw the sun. This collected our thoughts together as a group and because we hadn’t thought about theses questions before, the exercise was effective as it let us improvise and use our imaginations again, to create the scene and also empathise with how the convicts felt. Our teacher then went into role as an officer and came round the room, asking members of the group that were also in role as convicts, who it was who had been on deck last and left the mattresses of straw, out to get wet. This was very effective as it showed us how aggressive the officers were and how badly they treated the convicts.
It even scared me even though I wasn’t really there. Developing this even further, we all walked round in a circle in role as convicts. Our teacher told us that this would probably be the only time we saw daylight all week on the ship, from this we could improvise the way that the convicts would act, for example they may be excited or their eyes would be stinging as it was too bright. We carried on walking round in a circle following the person to our right and then turning round to walk the other way when we were told, by the teacher in role. We weren’t allowed to slack, as this was the only exercise we would be getting for at least a week. We had to carry on walking in total silence and the officer would threaten us if we disobeyed anything he said. This showed us how strict the discipline was on the ship, we also learnt more about how badly the convicts were treated.
We created a group sculpture in the middle of the room, where we all got into positions we thought would create an image of the life in the hold. Then we used thought tracking of how we were feeling, as a convict or a member of authority at that moment. That was effective because some people were ill, others were upset or tired. We really had developed an image in our minds of what it was like and how atrocious the conditions were. While we were doing this we listened to the opening extract from the play ‘Our Country’s Good’.
We were then given the 1st scene from this play to work on, in groups and improvise on to create our own scene. We used different techniques, such as narration and crosscutting. Everybody’s improvisation was different. This was very effective as we got to see a number of different stylised interpretations when we finally showed the rest of the class. After this we did a spontaneous improvisation, where a passing ship hand dropped a loaf of bread, nearby to where the convicts were working. We worked on what the convicts’ reactions might have been and also what the consequences of their actions would have been. We worked in groups and improvised a scene based on this.
Some people were desperate to eat the bread but wouldn’t, some weren’t interested and others were very tempted to take a bite of it but wouldn’t, as they didn’t get chance. We then adapted the scene by bringing an officer into the scene. We concentrated on what might happen here and what the officer would say and do in this situation. He might have used accusations and punishment to get the truth or not necessarily the truth, but what he wanted to hear. This was an effective piece of work because we learnt about how strict the rules were on the ship and we thought about how hungry and tempted, the convicts must have been at this point. Overall this scheme of work has been effective throughout but some parts could have been made better with more concentration from the group.