Pete Postlethwaite OBE - star of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, The Usual Suspects, and Brassed Off - will be talking to teachers about how OCR's new English Literature GCSE will enable them to bring texts to life, enhancing students' learning and appreciation of the works of Shakespeare.
Speaking at NATE's (National Association for the Teaching of English) annual conference on 9 July at Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire, Mr Postlethwaite will draw on his experience as both a former teacher and acclaimed actor to talk about adapting Shakespeare for stage and screen.
This relates directly to the 'Film and live performances of Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth' section of the OCR's GCSE English Literature specification, for first teaching from September 2010. This element, which sits within the 'Literary Heritage Linked Texts' unit, has been very popular with teachers owing to the diverse range of media that can be explored from 'Throne of Blood', the 1957 Samurai film re-interpreting Macbeth, to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Learners can also apply their analysis to any live performance of the plays.
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Mr Postlethwaite said "Shakespeare provides some great roles for actors because of the scope to make the part your own, and the different ways of interpreting the scripts are one of the reasons the plays have endured. There's endless scope to create different versions on film and in theatres, and a new vigour brought with each re-invention."
Mr Postlethwaite added, "Shakespeare is an important part of our literary heritage, but I think it's fair to say the text can be quite intimidating if examined in isolation. That's why it's important that young people studying the work are given the opportunity to engage with the performance rather than just the text. It's only when the script is performed that you can have a true appreciation of the work and all its nuances."
Paul Dodd, Qualifications Group Manager for Languages and Literature at OCR said, "Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed. In bringing the text to life through different interpretations, learners can get a real understanding of the power of the work and the different emotional responses that can be elicited.
The character of Friar Lawrence, played by Pete Postlethwaite, is a great example of a character who is ambiguous in text and where the actor's interpretation of that text can determine how sympathetically the audience is invited to respond. He is a fascinating character, whose words and deeds open up some great debates about intentions versus responsibility and ethics.
Mr Dodd continued, "We're very grateful to Mr Postlethwaite for taking the time to share his experience of interpreting Shakespearean characters and we're sure many English teachers will find this an unmissable part of the NATE conference."
Mr Postlethwaite will be speaking as part of the NATE three day English conference from 9-11 July, which is sponsored by OCR and whose theme this year is "Making Meanings: English at the Heart of Learning". The conference will be held at the four star Hinckley Island Hotel, Leicestershire and features a choice of 22 workshops, high profile speakers, seminars, a research strand, exhibition and entertainment. Prices start at £250 and further information can be found on the NATE website.
Ian McNeilly, Director of NATE, said "We're delighted that Mr Postlethwaite will be joining OCR at our 'Making Meanings' conference. The conference is shaping up to be our best yet, and we're very much looking forward to hearing him share his unique insights.