It’s not the first pairing of the Beatles and Shakespeare, and nor is it unique for making the work of the bard more accessible, both in the theatre and in print. But it is among the most unusual and inspiring.
Students at Gosden House special educational needs school near Guildford will today perform an interactive version of Twelfth Night, influenced by and including music from the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. An inclusive performance for a young audience with complex learning difficulties, it aims to transform the audience into members of the Lonely Hearts Club Band, with a Shakespearean twist.
The show marks 10 years of an arts education partnership between the school and the educational arm of Shakespeare’s Globe – the first production a decade ago was Romeo and Juliet.
For the last few weeks, Globe Education education staff have visited the school to work with students and teachers and prepare for today’s show (the 10 year anniversary coincides with the retirement of Godsen headteacher and Beatles fan Jon David).
The event is billed as an “eclectic mix of Shakespeare and Sgt Pepper” and students have been involved in creating five original songs while others will be playing music as part of a live band at the start and end of the play. The children themselves become Shakespeare’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
For Globe Education, the partnership has enabled practitioners to develop similar practices within the Southwark community where the theatre is based. The Globe is also involved in putting on relaxed performances which I’m a big fan of, and is training practitioners to work people on the autism spectrum.
For today, however, the focus is on Godsen’s talented students. To use the words of Lennon and McCartney in Sgt Pepper, “they’re guaranteed to raise a smile”.