This play was commissioned by The Spark and Leicester Libraries as part of the Imaginative Spaces project. It was written by Jayne Williams, who was our Artist in Residence at Braunstone Library (The BRITE Centre) in 2014.
To commemorate the World War One centenary, Jayne wrote a one-person play inspired by local stories, gathered by the Braunstone History Group. Dramaturged and directed by Adel Al-Salloum, with actor Gary Lagden, 'The First' performed to 990 young people in Years 5 and 6, during a short tour of Leicester Libraries.
"The First" will be touring libraries and museums in the East Midlands throughout November 2016 with performances for local schools. Click here for the tour schedule
The First is a play based on the global events of WWI, told from the perspective of two boys from a small town in the East Midlands. Written by Jayne Williams and produced by The Spark Arts for Children, The First serves as a dramatic work of fiction based on historic fact; a hook to reel in the interest and intrigue of learners aged 9+, to ignite inquisitive minds to explore their own local stories that link to the global history of WWI.
Written as a dynamic epic poem to reflect the real life encounters from the trenches, the story follows two best friends - Frederick and Jack, as they grow together, play together and enter the Great War together.
The First is a play of choices and the audience is invited to decide the fate of Jack at the end of the play.
'The connection and empathy that the children developed as a result of the play was evident from the initial performance and sessions afterwards. It was obvious that the children had developed an emotional connection with the characters and as a result, had a much greater understanding of the events that occurred in the First World War. I am sure that the resulting work in History and English at school was greatly enhanced.'
The Learning Opportunity
Follow-up workshops linked to this performance have been developed for teachers to deliver in-class. A downloadable resource pack will support activity for group discussion and creative writing which promotes speaking and listening skills as well as literacy levels, with the invitation to write the next chapter which will be displayed at the Library.
Links to local history and heritage can be explored via supported learning of the true events of WWI including the journey that local East Midlands soldiers would have made from their homes to the battlefield. In addition there are activities to unpick some of the most famous poems from those on the frontline and to be inspired to write their own.
Previously, the children who saw the play were compelled to write the next chapter and decide the fate of the character Jack. Through their historical knowledge, many suggested he would have gone on to fight in WWII. Others explored the impact of losing his best friend in the war. These stories were displayed in the Library and children proudly brought family members back to read them.
Watching this play has made the children empathise with soldiers' lives back then and has made all the facts they learnt about WWI come to life. The writing the children produced was of a high standard. They wrote diary entries, a poem and a narrative flashback story. They thoroughly enjoyed it and it really had a positive impact on their Literacy writing and History learning.