TEACHER RESOURCE PACK
A Unicorn Production
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS Inspired by the book by Jonathan Swift Adapted by Lulu Raczka Directed by Sam Yates
FROM SUN 15 MAR - SUN 3 MAY 2020 FOR PUPILS IN YEARS 6 - 11 A WONDEROUS WORLD, A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE... An adventure-filled modern adaptation of Swift’s surreal masterpiece. Three bored teenagers left behind in the school gym. Together, with camera, projector and props, they bring vividly to life Gulliver’s adventures of brutish Yahoos, belligerent Lilliputians, giant Brobdingnagians and wise Houyhnhnms. Award-winning film and theatre director Sam Yates (one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow 2016) and TV screenwriter and playwright Lulu Raczka blend film and live performance in this playful, funny and highly inventive production, which uses Swift’s biting satire to view our own world from a very different angle.
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins (approx)
ABOUT THE PLAY MAKING THE PLAY
p. 6 p. 8
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR SAM YATES
A DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAMA ACTIVITIES WHICH WILL BE ADDED BY DECEMBER 2019
INTRODUCTION “Thematically, it’s about the imagination, about storytelling and about different worlds, and looking at other worlds to reflect on our own.” Sam Yates The Unicorn production of Gulliver’s Travels is aimed at children and young people in school Years 3 and above. The aim of this pack is to provide useful information about the production, as well as a series of drama activities which explore key themes, ideas and characters, and provide teachers with practical ideas to use in the classroom with their pupils before and after their visit. An overview of the drama activities can be found at the end of this pack. The full series, which we are in the process of developing with our partner schools, will be added to the pack in detail by December 2019. Differentiated activities will be created for primary teachers working at Key Stage 2 and secondary teachers at Key Stages 3 and 4. Teachers will have the chance to find out more about the show and experience the activities for themselves at our free accompanying CPD day on Friday 24th January 2020. This production of Gulliver’s Travels is told in a contemporary context; set in a school gym, it follows three children all seeking refuge from their daily lives. As they begin to tell and act out the adventures of Gulliver, we witness the power of the imagination to take them to other places, perhaps to escape for a while, but also as a way to reflect on and process their present reality. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a savage satire depicting absurd places and the beings which inhabit them, as a way of expressing the anger and frustration with which he viewed the failings of human beings: petty, greedy, and self-serving. Swift’s book gave his reader a distorted mirror through which to view English society and values. The Unicorn’s production will follow the three young people on their travels to strange lands. At the end of the play, all three must return to their lives, but they do so with new resources and fresh understanding gained on their travels. In Swift’s book, the Houyhnhnms are beautiful creatures representing the rational human being. In the Unicorn production they sing, representing the power of music and the arts to speak to our most profound feelings. The younger sister, the most vulnerable of the three, doesn’t want to leave the land of the Houyhnhnms but to stay forever. However, when she returns to the school gym, she brings something of the Houyhnhnms back with her. The Unicorn’s Gulliver’s Travels vividly illustrates the power of the imagination, the creative invention of the young people and the transformational ways in which storytelling and theatre enable us to process the challenges that life puts in our way.
CPD: FRI 24 JANUARY, 10AM - 4PM There will be a free teacher CPD day for Gulliver’s Travels, a chance for teachers to find out more about the show and gain practical experience of the accompanying scheme of work and classroom activities before leading them with a class. For more information or to book your place, email email@example.com.
Sam Yates is an award-winning director for film and theatre. His work includes: For stage: The Starry Messenger (Wyndham’s Theatre, West End); The Phlebotomist (Hampstead Theatre); Glengarry Glen Ross (Playhouse Theatre West End and UK No.1 Tour); Incantata (Galway International Festival & Jen Coppinger); The Phlebotomist (Hampstead Theatre, Downstairs); Desire Under The Elms (Sheffield Crucible); Assassins (Royal Academy of Music); Murder Ballad (Arts, West End; Company (Royal Academy of Music); Cymbeline (Globe Theatre); East is East (West End & 2 UK Tours); The El. Train (Hoxton Hall); Outside Mullingar (Ustinov); Billy Liar (Royal Exchange); Cornelius (Finborough & 59E59 New York); and Mixed Marriage (Finborough Theatre). For screen: The Hope Rooms with Ciarán Hinds & Andrew Scott (31Productions & BKF); Cymbeline with Hayley Atwell; All’s Well That Ends Well with Lindsay Duncan & Ruth Wilson, and Love’s Labour’s Lost with Gemma Arterton & David Dawson.
The Unicorn Theatre is the UK’s leading professional theatre for young audiences, dedicated to inspiring and invigorating young people of all ages, perspectives and abilities, and empowering them to explore the world – on their own terms – through theatre. Purpose-built for children and based in London, the Unicorn is one of the most prolific producing theatres in the UK, presenting 12 to 15 productions for children of all ages every year, and touring widely across the UK and beyond.
ABOUT THE PLAY The following description is based on an R&D (research and development) workshop held at the Unicorn Theatre in December 2018. Three actors worked with the writer Lulu Raczka and director Sam Yates to improvise and explore what the play may look like in the spring of 2020. The description of the show which follows is based on a sharing at the end of that week of experiment. The fundamental principles of the production will be retained: the setting in the school gym; the three principal characters and the dynamic between them; the rough theatre aesthetic and use of multimedia, with live camera and projection. However the detail of how this is realised may well be different, and some of the elements described may not feature in the final production. The Unicorn production of Gulliver’s Travels will be a modern response to the 18th century novel and will bring key elements of the book to life in a contemporary context. The play begins in a familiar setting: the school gym at the end of the school day. Two sisters are there hoping to join an after-school dance club, but they’re not sure it’s the right day as no one else has arrived to take part. It becomes clear that the older sister, who is fifteen, is trying to keep her younger sister, aged nine, there to avoid going home. The younger girl is worried that they aren’t meant to be in the gym and she doesn’t want to make their dad angry by being late. We sense that things aren’t quite right at home. In order to keep her sister occupied, the older girl begins to tell her about the book she is studying at school: Gulliver’s Travels. This is the story of the adventurous Gulliver, who sets out across the sea on a series of journeys to fantastical places. As she begins to tell the story, the sisters start to act it out, using the objects at hand around them in the gym to bring it to life. They enact the setting sail, the journey across the sea and the arrival at Lilliput, where the people are tiny and Gulliver is a giant. A step ladder is used to depict the prison where Gulliver is incarcerated, and pegs become the tiny Lilliputians. At this point a boy, also fifteen, comes into the gym saying that he’s booked the space for film club. He has a camera and other equipment, but it appears that there are no other members of film club. It’s just him. As there is neither a dance club, nor other members of the film club arriving, the sisters begin to act out the beginning of the story of Gulliver for the boy, and as he watches he starts to film it. The camera brings the story to life in new ways: the live action is projected onto the set in a way that brings in dynamic and surreal perspectives to the storytelling. On camera, a badminton racket becomes a huge Gulliver, and a Playmobil Batman figure becomes the tiny king of the Lilliputians. As the three continue to explore, the camera becomes another creative element of the storytelling, enhancing the idea of scale, contrast and perspective. Life-sized, the boy is able to pick up a tiny girl (on film), the sisters are seen as giant shadows against the wall, and the camera helps to create an underwater world when the ship capsizes. Page 6
TEACHER RESOURCES The audience will be able to move its focus between the children in the gym and the technical invention they use to help create their imaginary worlds. As the story progresses, we and the children become more and more immersed in the imaginative world and the emotional resonances which new lands hold for the protagonists. These include the land of the Brobdingnagians, where Gulliver is now tiny and the Brobdingnagians are giants, and Laputa, a land where surreal experiments take place and absurd inventions are created. In their travels, we see glimpses of the young people’s real world situations, such as the girls’ father who is struggling with his own difficulties and is unable to parent them. In one of the worlds, a magician will conjure images of their past and the mother they have lost. The final place they visit is the land of the Houyhnhnms, beautiful horses. Rational and humane, they love art, music and literature. This section of the play will be sung. The younger sister wants to stay there forever instead of returning home. All three of the young people in our story are outsiders. They have conjured the world of Gulliver’s travels in a way that connects to their lived reality. Eventually, though they have to return to that reality, they bring back with them new understanding and resources from those travels. At the end of the play, an older person comes into the gym, arriving for choir practice. Shannon and Steph’s dad arrives to take them home.
MAKING THE PLAY
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR SAM YATES WHY DID YOU WANT TO DIRECT A CONTEMPORARY ADAPTATION OF GULLIVER’S TRAVELS? The writer, Lulu (Raczka), and I liked the central question of the novel, which is ‘How might the world be different?’. We just thought that was a great question to be asking now, and to pose in front of young people who must be looking at the world, as we all are, with dismay, as it goes through seismic changes. It also seemed to provide the opportunity for quite a visual and bold style of storytelling, because the worlds he visits are all feats of the imagination, and it travels over space and time to worlds we don’t know. You can interpret the original text in any way you like, and our aim is to make it contemporary and to ask questions that are pertinent to us now. So I would say the story, its central question, and the fact that it leaves such breadth for interpretation.
YOU START YOUR ADAPTATION WITH THREE YOUNG PEOPLE: TWO SISTERS AND A YOUNG BOY. Yes, we liked the idea that it was set in a school, in a gymnasium after hours. Because that, from a practical point of view, gave us the opportunity to pursue a rough theatre style which in my experience allows the imagination to really expand and fill in the gaps, and a tiny piece of Plasticine can become a little man. We also like the idea that it is in school and there’s meant to be this after-school film club that the male student is running, and he is the only person in the club, and these two sisters who can’t go home because of the situation there with their father, who is probably an alcoholic, are trying to pass some time. So the three of them together go on a kind of adventure, and start to tell the story of Gulliver’s Travels, which the older sister is studying in class. Then their personalities and how they interpret the story come to the fore, and their father comes into it a little bit. Thematically, it’s about the imagination, about storytelling and about different worlds and looking at other worlds to reflect on our own.
HOW FAITHFUL WILL YOU BE TO THE ORIGINAL? While there will be identifiable elements from the original, we’re not following a man called Gulliver who travels to those places, we’re following the girls’ journey. They’re interpreting the story in their own way, much like we’re interpreting their interpretation on stage. It’s about re-examining that story for today and asking ‘What’s in that book that works for us today, thematically?’ It is definitely after Swift, it’s a new play devised from that source material. It’s not a traditional, costume, period version. You will get invested in the young characters, and the story will be a multi-dimensional piece rather than just the story of Gulliver. Page 8
TEACHER RESOURCES SWIFT’S BOOK IS A SATIRE WITH GULLIVER LOOKING BACK ON SOCIETY FROM THE PLACES HE TRAVELS. Satire – what do they say? We are now in a post-satire age because everything has become so ridiculous that you couldn’t possibly satirise it. We were more interested in the science fiction element of it really, in that it’s something way beyond our world that we are looking at. The way in which we present that world, through multimedia, or a theatrical point of view, is through the style of rough theatre, with a highly technical filmed aspect. It allows you to create new worlds, even in the context of a gymnasium. It’s playing with the idea of young people’s imaginations, and the strength of visual storytelling and everything that it can achieve.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ROUGH THEATRE? It’s about minimal props; a chair can become a monster, or we believe that a tree becomes a caravan. It’s making the imagination take leaps.
SO SET IN A RECOGNISABLE SPACE, THE GYM, BUT WITH THE OBJECTS THAT YOU’D FIND NATURALLY IN THAT SPACE BECOMING THESE OTHER WORLDS? Yes, and filtered very often through the lens of a camera and with music. It will become more and more immersive for the children on stage and therefore for us, as they get deeper and deeper into the portals of their imagination and the role-play goes deeper and deeper and deeper. We’re playing with perspectives, zooms, scale, rhythm, movement, music. Cameras are very versatile; framing opens up doors. You’ve got what’s actually on stage in front of you, and then the reinterpreted image of what comes through a camera. So you can look at the bare nuts and bolts and see how that smoke machine and the guy with the broom creates a picture that looks like someone’s on the seven seas. The novel itself, at its best, is excellent storytelling and gallops through time. And in order to gallop through time on stage, you sometimes need a bit more than words.
HAVE YOU DIRECTED WORK FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES BEFORE? DOES IT CHANGE YOUR THINKING AT ALL? Not really. The only guidance I’ve had from people who’ve done it before is to generally make the sort of theatre you’d want to see yourself. As soon as you start to play down to an age group, you’re probably in deep water. So just appreciate that the young audience are fully formed human beings as much as you and I are, and speak to them as an equal and make work for them in the same way that I’d make work for anyone. If it pleases you, then you hope it might please someone else.
THE EMOTIONAL HEART OF THE PIECE SEEMS TO BE WITH THE YOUNGER SISTER, SHANNON? The idea is that the horses, the Houyhnhnms, are very beautiful and they prioritise art and music, and she really falls in love with their way of life. She wants to stay with them because they prize music above all else, which she loves, and it’s a calm place. It’s a very balanced world, and that’s very different from what she has at home. So she loses herself quite deeply in the idea of it, and she wants Page 9
TEACHER RESOURCES to stay. That’s a musical section, it’s going to be sung through I think.
IS IT TOO EARLY TO THINK ABOUT HOW THEY COME BACK HOME FROM THEIR TRAVELS? It could be as simple as someone coming into the gym and turning the lights on and suddenly the illusion’s gone. They are changed by the journey, quite literally. In the same way that those experiences or the best theatre can change you, making you feel comforted for a while, or challenged.
CONTEXT SWIFT’S GULLIVER’S TRAVELS
‘Swift’s satirical fury is directed against almost every aspect of early 18th-century life: science, society, commerce and politics.’ Robert McCrum Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was published anonymously in 1726, with the original title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. An elaborate practical joke, Swift had half of the manuscript delivered to a publisher with the promise that the other half would be provided on the payment of £200 – a huge sum at the time. The publisher paid the money without knowing who the author was. A parody written in the tradition of the travel journal, a very popular genre at the time, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World claimed to be written by Lemuel Gulliver and to tell of his travels to strange lands around the world. The book contains detailed records, maps and description of the fantastical places Gulliver visited and the beings he encountered there. Places on his travels are located on the edges of what was known and mapped of the world at the time, so for example, the land of the Houyhnhnms is shown on a map in the book as just south of Australia. The journal is written with an observational distance. Gulliver is curious and scientific, not becoming swept up in what is happening, but instead recording in a dispassionate, factual way what he finds on his journey: ‘I felt something alive moving on my left Leg ... I perceived it to be a human Creature not six Inches high, with a Bow and Arrow in his Hands, and a Quiver at his Back.’ The book became an immediate hit and from the beginning had broad appeal, with adults appreciating the anger-fuelled satire and children enjoying the adventure and wild creations of Swift’s imagination.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS The book divides the journeys of Lemuel Gulliver, a sea captain and a surgeon, into four sections. The ship carrying Gulliver is shipwrecked and he finds himself on Lilliput, the only survivor. This is a land where the people are only six inches high. The most famous image from the book is of the giant Gulliver being tied down by lots of tiny people. Imprisoned by the Lilliputians, Gulliver hears about their absurd customs, including the political rivalry between those who wear high heels and those who wear low heels. Meeting the king later, Gulliver hears about the fighting between the Lilliputians and the empire of Blefuscu over whether boiled eggs should be opened at the bigger or the smaller end. Next, Gulliver travels to Brobdingnag, whose inhabitants are giants within a gigantic landscape. Now it is Gulliver who is tiny, having to fight off giant wasps. Captured by a farmer, Gulliver is exhibited as a curiosity and eventually sold to the queen. When talking to the king, he proudly describes life back home in England and the political and historical achievements of the Europeans. The king responds in Page 11
TEACHER RESOURCES surprising way: he thinks that the people Gulliver describes sound appalling. ‘The most pernicious race of odious little vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.’ Gulliver then offers to make gunpowder for the king, but the king is horrified by the thought of such weaponry. The tiny Gulliver is picked up by an eagle and dropped into the sea, where he is rescued by people his own size and taken to Laputa, whose people have eyes pointing in different directions: one inward, and the other upward. The people of Laputa study maths and music, but are so lost in thought that they do nothing practical with their knowledge. On the island of Lagado, Swift satirizes contemporary science as Gulliver describes an experiment which attempts to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. On Glubbdubdrib, an island of sorcerers, Gulliver speaks with great men of the past and learns about the lies of history from them. In Luggnagg, he meets the Struldbrugs, a people who are immortal but still age as though they were mortal. His last visit is to the land of the Houyhnhnms - horses who are rational and humane. They have no words for evil or deception and live a communal, harmonious life. Living alongside them are the Yahoos; brutish, greedy, and dirty, the Yahoos look like humans and display human beings’ worst traits. The Houyhnhnms are curious about Gulliver as he looks like a Yahoo, but behaves in a more civilised way. But when Gulliver describes his people and their history to the king of the Houyhnhnms, they both see that the English are not more civilised than the Yahoos. Gulliver returns home, having learnt from his travels the true nature of his own society. Disgusted with human beings, he chooses to spend the rest of his days with horses. A biting satire on contemporary British politics, it is Gulliver’s failure to really see and understand what he encounters that is essential to the satire. He attempts impartiality, but his lack of awareness about the realities of his homeland becomes more and more apparent. In the land of the Houyhnhnms he is finally brought to a realisation about the nature of his own civilisation, and so returns home changed by his travels. ‘Swift’s genius is to see that pride and self-disgust are near neighbours. Gulliver begins his voyages as a prideful modern man, confident in the values of his culture; he ends as a maddened misanthrope, and, disturbingly, the unwitting object of the book’s satire.’ John Mullan
DRAMA ACTIVITIES The full series of drama activities will be added to this pack by December 2019, and will be designed to give teachers ideas and strategies for work in the classroom through which to explore the characters, themes and setting of the play before and after a visit. They will extend the imaginative reach of the play and allow pupils to give shape to their own thoughts, feelings and understanding in drama form. Our teacher resources and CPD support teachers in embedding drama in their curriculum planning. Working through drama allows children to explore things which matter to them within a fictional context, draw on their prior knowledge and apply it to new situations, develop language as they give expression to new understandings and develop emotional intelligence and critical thinking as they see things from different perspectives. It also allows the children to take responsibility, make decisions, solve problems and explore possibilities from within the drama. Activities will use drama and storytelling as ways of exploring ideas that are relevant to the play and to support National Curriculum requirements: ‘All pupils should be enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Pupils should be able to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They should have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.’ National Curriculum The resources will also provide National Curriculum links at Key Stage Two and Three English through the development of spoken word, as well as Drama, PSHE and Citizenship. Differentiated drama activities will be created for primary teachers working at Key Stage 2 and secondary drama teachers working with pupils in Key Stages 3 to 4. They are likely to include:
IMAGINARY TRAVEL JOURNALS: UTOPIAS AND DYSTOPIAS Pupils will be in role as adventurers, travelling to new worlds and creating journals like Gulliver’s. The journals may include detailed description of location, geography, and details about the people or creatures encountered, their ways of life, belief systems, local customs and politics. As a part of the journaling, we imagine pupils will record details, like Gulliver, in a scientific and dispassionate way, and that maps are created showing the locations and geographical features of these lands. “Fantasy maps increased in number during the 20th century due to the rise of science fiction and fantasy writing, and the birth of television and video games. Page 13
TEACHER RESOURCES Many of them are products of the wildest imaginations, and are immersive places of escapism. Yet all of them retain vestiges of the ‘real’ world in which they were created – whether because of a particular feature illustrated in it, the way in which it has been drawn, or even the ‘real-world’ contexts which inspired it.” Tom Harper (British Library) Teachers may find these resources from the British Library useful for further reading: https://www.bl.uk/maps/articles/what-is-a-fantasy-map https://www.bl.uk/restoration-18th-century-literature/articles/an-introduction-to-gullivers-travels
CREATING ROUGH THEATRE: DEVELOPING DEVISING SKILLS These activities will respond to the form of the production, and will explore how the transformation of everyday objects can be used in the devising process. We will also look at the use of the camera to play with framing, different perspectives and scale when reenacting key moments in the story of Gulliver’s Travels. Students will be given the opportunity to bring different episodes from Swift’s narrative to life, using some of the approaches of our creative team to devise their own moments of theatre.
GULLIVERâ€™S TRAVELS A Unicorn Production
Inspired by the book by Jonathan Swift Adapted by Lulu Raczka Directed by Sam Yates Resource pack written by Catherine Greenwood
Our resource pack for teachers working with students in Years 3 - 11.