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Chalk Talk: Shakespeare can be child's play


To the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's 450th birthday celebrations have spawned a new initiative designed to help five- to 11-year-olds celebrate and appreciate the Bard's works.

A new digital interactive film, Exploring Shakespeare, not only gives children a synopsis of the plots of several Shakespeare plays, but also allows them to do the casting themselves, with animals in the lead roles.

For example, in Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and the Capulets are played by dogs and cats – dogs for the Montagues and cats for the Capulets.

The idea of using dogs and cats is to emphasise the enmity the two families have for each other. "But they can fall in love," says Harper Ray, digital manager of Globe Education, as we successfully pair off a dog and a cat to play Romeo and Juliet. "If we've got these ideas through to them, then hopefully they'll want to find out more."

The actual film features two boys, Todd and Gary – one a Shakespeare buff and the other bored with the whole thing on a tour of the Globe Theatre.

They sneak off backstage to find props associated with the plays, which allows Todd, the buff, to wax lyrical about moments in the plays. Children watching the film can then click on to games that they can play – for example, bombarding ships with hailstones during The Tempest. They can also access synopses of the stories or click on to find out individual facts about the plays.

According to Patrick Spottiswoode, director of Globe Education, the film and its sideshows are ideal for helping parents to foster an interest in Shakespeare in their children. They could be used by schools, too. He adds that the narrative of the film "challenges the assumption that children find Shakespeare's works boring or difficult".

Speaking personally, I was hopeless at dive-bombing the ships in The Tempest with hailstones, but maybe you could do better? It was fun, though, I have to admit. It can be accessed free on the Globe Playground website (shakespearesglobe.com/explore). Oh, and [spoiler alert] as you can probably guess, Gary becomes an avid Shakespeare fan by the end of the film.