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Burke and Hare


An Introduction


Burke and Hare is the new musical by Charades Theatre that is specifically tailored for school productions.  The original brutal tale of the Edinburgh body snatchers has been tempered and modified so that it is ideal for dissemination amongst children. In this version of the story, Burke and Hare are pantomime villains who vow to do their worst on Victorian Edinburgh.  However, through a series of blunders, their evil schemes are unravelled and they are brought before the law in the closing scenes of the musical.  Throughout the production, the atmosphere of Auld Reekie, as Edinburgh was known, is omnipresent.  The musical takes the participants and the audience on a guided tour of the closes, cobbles and landmarks of the nation’s capital whilst Burke and Hare may be lurking in every darkened stairwell.  



The Production


This production of Burke and Hare has been structured so that it can be performed by large groups of children – a cast of up to 120 children from classes in primaries 4, 5, 6 & 7.  These groups will play characters such as the Townsfolk, Guards, Navvies, Medical Students and Cadavers all of whom are integral to the story. The musical consists of nine major songs and each cast member will be involved in singing four of these.  The cast is divided into three main character groups that correlate with normal school class divisions.  For example, the Navvies would be played by the primary 5 class and the Townsfolk/Cadavers would be played by primary 6.  The way that the cast is divided into three main character groups can vary from school to school so that it causes the minimum disruption to timetables, curriculums etc.



The Workshops


1. Continuing Professional Development Evening (CPD)

This takes place at the beginning of the term and it should be attended by all the class teachers involved with the project.  It will last up to an hour and a half and will commence at either 3.30pm or 4pm depending on certain logistics.  During the CPD the format and details of the show will be discussed in full.  Following this explanation, time will be dedicated to solving any logistical questions pertaining to venue, timetabling, class divisions etc.  Lastly, the Charades team will lead a small crash course on how to teach the children the material.  Much of this information will be compounded during the Half-day Introductory Workshop.

2. Half-day Introductory Workshop

This takes place the week after the CPD evening and it is the first time that the children meet members of the Charades team.  The first forty minutes of the workshop will be an introduction and all of the children will be together for this.  Therefore, a space such as a gym hall or large GP room would be ideal for this introductory session.  Following the introduction the cast will split into their character groups and each group will be visited in turn by the Charades Team for a forty minute singing workshop.  This introduction is designed to be a fun and interactive workshop that gets the children enthusiastic about working hard to learn all the material for the production.  This half-day workshop needs to take place in the morning unless the afternoon in your school has the most in class hours for the pupils.

3.  Music Support Day Workshop

This takes place roughly six weeks after the Half-day Introduction giving the children plenty of time to learn the words to their songs.  This workshop is where we put the whole show together.  We begin with a forty minute welcome and warm-up with all the children.  We then divide into the three groups and work on each group’s specific songs and scenes for the remainder of the morning.  During this time we will bring in all the stage directions and choreography.  In the afternoon we bring all the groups together to stagger through the first run of the whole show.  This workshop is the most intense out of the three due to the amount of stage directions, dances and scene changes that the children need to learn.  It is however very rewarding as the children get an idea of how the whole show hangs together for the first time.  For the workshop we require three class rooms and the school hall/performance space for the whole day.  We can be flexible with our need for the hall in the morning after the warm-up but it is vital in the afternoon.  


4.  Performance Day Workshop

This is the performance day and the children will be together in the performance space for the entire day.  After a warm-up in the morning we begin another run through of the show.  This run through will be a stop and start affair where we make sure that everybody knows exactly what they are doing.  After break, we will commence a dress rehearsal at 11am.  This gives the children another run through before they perform to their parents and it provides an excellent opportunity for the rest of the school to see the show.  It is often the most fun run through as the children get a great nervous energy from performing to their peers which they channel into an enthusiastic performance.   After lunch, the children then warm-up, then gather their thoughts for the performance to their parents that usually commences at 2pm.  


5. Practical Requirements

All that we need is the ability to play CDs in the rehearsal spaces which are invariably the classrooms. A piano in the performance space is useful but not necessary.  All other equipment such as lights, PA system, costumes, props etc. we will provide. A more detailed list of these requirements is contained within the Teacher’s Pack.  So too is a more detailed breakdown of the workshops.







OUTLINE: The gruesome tale of Edinburgh’s most infamous criminals.




CHARACTER GROUPS: Townsfolk/Cadavers, Students/Guards, Navvies


LEAD PARTS: William Burke, William Hare & Dr. Knox




Charades featured on BBC Radio Scotland

With the release of Charades’ second musical Burke and Hare earlier this year, Bob Dixon visited one of the Charades workshops at Dunbar Primary School to find out more…