A chance meeting with an old friend led to dinner with new friends which led to an idea about an exchange between our students in the UK and Barcelona. After several bottles of wine not all plans come together but there are moments in life when an opportunity presents itself that should not be turned down; a core challenge for those who life rich learning is to disrupt the contemporary machinery of schooling by finding ways for students to encounter the unforeseen. This collaboration was one of those moments.
So we did it. I adapted Charles Dickens' Great Expectations for the Dolphin company and then wrote lines for a Greek Chorus, which the Lazzigag actors performed. Our Dolphins learnt lines in English and Spanish, and the Lazzigag actors' lines were in Catalan; hey presto, we had a tri-lingual production and an international theatre company! The show was re-named Greater Expectations, probably because I was always slightly surprised that we were pulling this grand feat off. We rehearsed independently in Barcelona and Hurst, had one rehearsal together and then went on tour. Talk about living on the edge......
Living nearly 1000 miles apart made the experience challenging and very, very scary! But fear is wonderful because it sparks your imagination and suddenly our worlds are transformed and filled with possibility. Rehearsing with these young Dolphin students was exciting. And an engaged imagination develops young people's empathy, leadership, creativity and critical thinking. Imagination breeds grit; young people stay invested in the rehearsal process, the performance outcomes, and, later in life, their own life outcomes.
Theatre can fundamentally change who you are and how you view the world so the stakes are really high. Touring in another country, collaborating with actors you have never met before and performing at an International theatre festival raises these stakes substantially. But it is more important than ever since Brexit that young people in the UK do interact with our European friends, and what better way to do that than through theatre. We are living in a world in transit and projects like ours can uproot budding prejudices and deepen students' knowledge of how the world works, and we can begin to foster the notion of the global citizen.
In addition to putting on a show, our young global citizens learnt how to make an authentic Valencian paella, built human towers, explored the Gothic Quarter, learnt new words in Spanish (like brandy!), toured Barcelona's football ground, Camp Nou, but above all they made new European friends.
I am incredibly lucky and deeply grateful to have the privilege of working with young people who want to follow me through tunnels of inventiveness, chaos making and, at times, despair, and emerge the other side with something to show for it that is collective and beautiful. Our Greater Expectations! was exactly that.