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Chicken Shed was begun in 1974 in London by Jo Collins and Mary Ward. They wanted to produce a fun theatre group for any children who wanted to get involved. Chicken Shed believe that performing arts are for everybody who want to take part, and so welcome anyone, regardless of disability, social background, religion or culture. They don't expect perfect results, they just ask for children to give the best they can. Over 1,000 children pass through Chicken Shed's doors at Cockfosters, every week. In London, the group is so popular that they have a waiting list of over 300.

Last year, Shed MK was launched. Shed MK, set up by Interaction, is an out reach project based in Milton Keynes, which gives children the opportunity to learn the performing arts. I was lucky enough to get a place in this project. This page will tell you about some of the sessions.

28th January 2003

Before the session, I was excited but also very nervous and apprehensive, because I had no idea of what to expect. I needn't have worried. Everyone involved was very friendly and made us all feel very welcome.

We had all been put into groups by the organisers. I was in group three. We had two group leaders, who explained what we had to do. They were great fun to work with. They were constantly giving ideas throughout the session of how we could improve.

To begin with we had to walk around the room and introduce ourselves to each other in the room, which gave me an opportunity to meet some of the other people there.

Then we had to imagine we were all stretching up to the ceiling for a 50 pound note. We all had to be connected so we leaned on each others shoulders to support one another.

Next, we all had to walk around like somebody from the media, such as a character from a soap, someone off of the radio, etc. I did a pretty good impression of Toby Friedner, who presents "Milton Keynes Breakfast" on BBC Three Counties Radio!

Each group was given a sheet of paper with a list of lines. We had to design a scene where a mother grabs her two children at a party and then the scene freezes and the audience have to guess from the list given, what the mother is going to say.

Now, group two was divided down the centre and half went to group one and the other half to group three. Each group was supposed to be a rival gang, and each one did a dance consisting of punches, jumps and kicks, to intimidate the other.

Last of all, the two groups were taught a song. The lyrics went like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2

Very simple. Group one and half of group two were supposed to be auditioning and group three and the rest of group two were the judges.

Group one sang the song, and we politely applauded to the beat of the words as we sung. Group one becoming more confidant sang with more gestures. We yawned in time to our singing, obviously unimpressed.

Group one, annoyed, sang the words again, gesturing like they were complaining to us. We threw imaginary fruit at them in time to our singing and they walked away, crying and singing. On their last "1 2" they snapped round and pointed at us and we looked shocked as if to say "What have we done?"!

It was fantastic. I really enjoyed myself and by the end of the session, I felt really at home. I was amazed how everyone came together and worked as a group so quickly. There are children who have severe disabilities but they joined in everything. They were brilliant. There was a volunteer, who just happened to be in a wheel chair, who was one of the writers. She had written a list of sayings for the group. One I remember was this:

"Look after everyone, not just number one."

I think we could all learn something from this, don't you?


4th February 2003

This week the whole group was ready and raring to go. Before the lesson, I was no longer nervous, now I was really excited. The week had passed so slowly for me, I couldn't wait for this session. When I finally got into the "Theatre" I could have cheered, it seemed to have taken so long! People were a lot more relaxed this week, because they knew some other people.

To start off, we did some voice exercises. This meant we had to make the same sounds as the instructor to warm our voices up for any singing we might be doing later on.

Next, one of the volunteers from Chicken Shed came forward and asked us "Has anyone here done any Yoga before?" Nobody answered. If you had asked five minutes later we would have said, yes, because we did. We started by raising our hands above our heads and bringing them down to our chests, pushing our hands together as hard as we could. We raised them back up and put them down on the floor. Then we jumped our legs out into a push up position, lowering ourselves onto the floor and then pushing back up and jumping into a V position

Then we straightened up, back into our starting position. We did this three times. They warned us we would be very hot at the end. I certainly was! To think I did yoga!

The Chicken Shed Volunteers then did a dance to "When Doves Cry" from the film Romeo and Juliet. They taught us the first part of it in groups of three. It was very complicated but I got the hang of it and it was actually quite fun!

To finish the session off, we focussed on someone in the room and acted like we were that person. We were then asked to make the character more unrealistic and mad. We had to act really excited, and then really angry. Suddenly we felt sad and alone. Next, we were asked to act slightly nervous, like someone was following us. Then we just couldn't be alone any more and scrunched up into a group, then with another group and that group would mix with another group, and so on until there were only two groups left. Then we were sure that the other group was the one following us and they were sure that we were following them. Finally we acted like the whole group was one person and had to go to the other group and say in a really scared voice, "Hi!" This exercise was something right up my street.

Shed MK is not just teaching me acting, dance and singing, but also socialising and how to treat others with respect, and that is giving me so much.

I am proud to be part of Shed MK and I am really looking forward to next week.


11th February 2003

This evening, everyone sat down and the whole group started to talk and mention their names (it's so hard to remember all of them!) and everyone seemed friendly and relaxed.

To start off, we did some Yoga from last week. Again, it got very hot. I enjoy doing Yoga, It's fun and rather relaxing too.

We continued our "When Doves Cry" dance to the finish this evening. The dance, I feel, focuses on loneliness and sadness. We begin in groups of three or four, facing down and covering our faces with our hands so that we are hiding them from the audience. On the third line of the song, the group moulds together, like when you twist three pieces of clay together. We put our hand to our faces again, hiding our faces from the audience, with our other hand supporting our elbows. We raised the hand covering our faces and dropped our wrists like we were catching a tear, then brought the hand into ourselves, like we were cradling a baby. We moved our arms out to the left, in 8 counts. Then we scooped our heads round to the right, turning our bodies in a full circle, until we were facing the doors again. I can't remember much of the rest, but at the end we come back into our groups and merge into one again.

In the first week we had to do a scene and then freeze the action and let the audience guess what the mother was going to say. This week we showed our pieces. Group three was a party and I was the mothers son. My "mother" came in gasped and then the scene froze and someone asked the audience to guess which three choices my mother would say:

A) Oh my god, you eat like a pig!
B) Oh my god, you're late home again, you dirty stop out!
C) Oh my god, you remind me of your father!

Then the scene continued and the mother cried, "Oh my god, you remind me of your father!" The rest of the group laughed at them while I just stood there looking rather shocked.

On the first week, we did our 12345612345612 song. This week we did the same thing, and we also did a scene of a group of teenagers listening to music and some Old age pensioners who didn't like it. The teenagers turned up the volume and moved closer to these old age pensioners. The pensioners told us off, and we, angry about being told what to do, encircled them rather menacingly. Then the pensioners started to dance and after the shock of seeing some pensioners dancing, we joined in. Then, one by one, the pensioners fainted and we looked shocked and pointed down at them.

One of the Chicken Shed volunteers commented at the end of the session that the children should come every week. He said that if everyone came every week, they would be able do the things that the group had learnt the week before without having to learn it all in the minimum of time.

As it is half term next week, there's no Shed MK. I don't think I'll be able to wait two weeks!


25th February 2003

Back this week! The last two weeks have dragged on! Finally back and ready to start fresh after the half term break.

To start off, we did an exercise where one person described an event, such as being shut in a room and suddenly the walls start closing in. The group acted then out how they would act if that situation was happening, such as pushing out their arms and legs to stop the walls.

We began to learn a song called Life is good, written by one of the Chicken Shed volunteers who is in a wheelchair. She wrote it about her own life and experiences. The lyrics we learnt go like this:

Life is good when you are in it
Life is bad when you are not
Life is better for you
Life would not be if not
Life is good with you

Life is good when you are in it
Life is bad when you are not
Life is better for you
Life would not be if not
Life is good with you

Life would be good if you let yourself into it
Life would be good if you let yourself free in it
Life would be better if better was not so sad

Life would be good if you let yourself into it
Life would be good if you let yourself free in it
Life would be better if better was not so sad

It makes me feel sad when I'm singing it. It reminds me a bit of my own experiences at school.

At the end of the second session we did a scene where there were two groups and they were really scared of one another. This week we were given scripts which we had to say together, as if it were a conversation between two people instead of two groups.

I've found Shed MK is teaching me so much, not just performing arts, but respecting others, co-operation, team work, all things that we all need in life and in a few years, I will benefit from that, and so will others around me.


4th March 2003

This week, we had some new things to learn. To start off, we did some voice exercises. We breathed in through our noses and breathed out with a note.

Next, we learned a new song. It's all about football! The lyrics went like this:

A slice of life! A sea of green!
The biggest show you've ever seen!
All life is here! All life is there!
There's too much life!
And it's everywhere!
And when it goes alright for me!
It means the bl**dy world to me!
And when it's bad it's all the same!
The whole damn thing, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a gaaaaaaame!

While we were singing the first 5 lines, we had to act like we were coming into the stadium and sitting down, but in different ways, for example, my friend was someone who came every week and I'd been dragged along and I kept looking at my watch and looking intensely bored! During the next two lines, the team we were supporting was running towards the other goal to score and on "bl**dy world" the supporters would gesture, such as jumping up into the air or punching the air. In my case, I just shrugged and carried on reading the newspaper.

The next two lines were the other team going to score and on "Damn thing" they scored and my friend got me in a headlock and I struggled with him. On the last "it's just a gaaaaaaame!", the groups moved into semi circles of 3.

The lady who wrote the song "Life is good" was there because she wanted to help direct some scenes about her life. When she was younger, she saw psychologists who said that she shouldn't be allowed to mix with society. We did some "trailer scenes" being sarcastic about the psychologists.

I've done a rough script showing what we did. There were two psychologists and the rest of us were "patients". Here's the "script":

Announcer: Paula's Story. It's a story of psychologists finding brand new shiny ways to be stupid.

(enter psychologists)

Psychologist 1: Lie down

(everyone lies down)

Psychologist 1: Close your eyes and clear your mind of any thoughts. That shouldn't be difficult for any of you.

(everyone close's their eyes)

Psychologist 1: Breath

(everyone breaths)

Psychologist 1: Breath

(everyone breaths)

Psychologist 1: Breath

(everyone breaths)

Psychologist 1: Now open your eyes and sit up

(everyone sits up)

Psychologist 2: Now, look at the person next to you and say "I am a failure, but I don't care who knows it!"

Everyone: I am a failure, but I don't care who knows it!

Psychologist 2: Say it again!

Everyone: I am a failure, but I don't care who knows it!

Psychologist 1: Say it in a high voice

Everyone: (high voice) I am a failure, but I don't care who knows it!

Psychologist 1: And in a low voice

Everyone: (low voice) I am a failure, but I don't care who knows it!

Psychologist 1: There, we've solved you're problem now!

Psychologist 2: That's £375 and 50 pence please!

(everyone starts pulling money out of their pockets)

I can't wait until next week!


11th March 2003

To start us off this week, we were each named a different fruit (Apples, strawberries, oranges, bananas) and when someone shouted out our fruit name, we had to change places with someone of the same fruit. Then things got a little harder. 4 adults took up places a corner and yelled out one of the fruit names as loud as they could. If you were a strawberry, for example, you would go to the person yelling strawberry. Then that person would give you a fruit and you'd go to the person yelling your new fruit name. I went from being strawberry, to apple and then back to strawberry again!

This week, we finished off our football song. The whole song went like this:

A slice of life! A sea of green!
The biggest show you've ever seen!
All life is here! All life is there!
There's too much life!
And it's everywhere!
And when it goes alright for me!
It means the bl**dy world to me!
And when it's bad it's all the same!
The whole damn thing, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a gaaaaaaame!

Get a life son, sort it out!
One with Ketchup, one without!
Stick it in son, stick it in!
Stick it in the bl**dy bin!
God I love you, yes you are!
The biggest miss I've ever seen!
Where's the ball mate? Where's the ball mate?
Where's the ball mate? Where's the ball maaaaaaaaate?

A slice of life! A sea of green!
The biggest show you've ever seen!
All life is here! All life is there!
There's too much life!
And it's everywhere!
And when it goes alright for me!
It means the bl**dy world to me!
And when it's bad it's all the same!
The whole damn thing, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a gaaaaaaame!

Down the line, mate, down the line!
Down the pub and I'll be fine!
Look the ref has got the hump!
Go and take a running jump!
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, NO!
Go and tell him where to go!
On the head mate, on the head!
On my life, he dropped down deeeeeeeeeead!

A slice of life! A sea of green!
The biggest show you've ever seen!
All life is here! All life is there!
There's too much life!
And it's everywhere!
And when it goes alright for me!
It means the bl**dy world to me!
And when it's bad it's all the same!
The whole damn thing, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a game,
It's just a game, it's just a gaaaaaaame!

Today we finished off our clown scene, where two groups were acting like two people having a conversation. At the end of the conversation, some loud music was played and we had to erupt into really mad crazy dancing! When the music finished we fell on the floor like we were puppets and the puppeteer had just cut our strings!

To finish off the session we did a recap of "When Doves Cry". Everyone remembered the moves once we got going.

At Shed MK, I feel welcome, and part of the group. It's feels homely to me. I just love it!


18th March 2003

Two weeks until the presentation. We're working harder than ever to get things ready for it!

To warm up, some music was put on and we all had to mime playing different instruments, such as the trumpet, the triangle, the drum, etc.

This evening we learned a new song called "The Change". When I sing it, I find it hard to tell whether the song is supposed to be happy or sad. This is how it goes:

We can look through the past
Pick out the times to last
I might lose you, losing me too
But we'll find a way
Just push for the way ahead
For nothing in time stays dead
Don't drag me down, turn life around
It won't run away, it won't run away

Whenever the change in you
Brings out the change in me
Something must give, something must live
So something can die
But whenever the change in you
Keeps trying to pull you through
You may look sad, you might feel bad
But you'll never cry

You stand on the edge of fear
You don't know why you are here
Nothing to prove, which world will move
And which world will stay
Wrap up hope in memory
Let go, let your future free
Don't wait too long, you can go on,
Let time slip away, let time slip away

Whenever the change in you
Brings out the change in me
Something must give, something must live
So something can die
But whenever the change in you
Keeps trying to pull you through
You may look sad, you might feel bad
But you'll never cry

After we rehearsed our football song, we did some more Paula's story trailer scenes. This is the one our group was working on:

Announcer (me): Paula's Story. It's a story of big people and little people.

Big People: Hello! We're big! You're small!
We are important! You are irrelevant!
We are talented! You have no talents!
We are professionals! You do what we say!
We are the strongest link! You are the weakest link! Goodbye!

(Throughout each line, the small people become more and more hurt and upset by the comments, like bullets are hitting them one by one. At the end of the last line, they collapse onto the floor.)

Next week, the final preparations for the parents performance.


25th March 2003

This week was the final rehearsal before the big performance. We were all in a big hurry to try and perfect our presentation. We started by playing a game which you had to lean on someone in twos and threes. When someone shouted "Falling!" we all had to run over to that group of people and stop them from touching the ground.

We all had a good rehearsal and are all ready for the performance next week!


1st April 2003

Tonight was the big night! We all got there for 7 o clock and had a final rehearsal. I felt a bit nervous but excited as well!

When the audience had taken their seats, we started doing a quick warm up telling everyone to "break a leg".

Going on with the show, we did our, "What is this person about to say?" scenes. We did one with David Beckman (me!) in the final 2 seconds of the world cup final against Brazil (Ok, it's not going to happen, but in the mad, crazy world of theatre, it's a remote possibility!).

So David goes for the ball, slips on the grass and crashes to the ground. The action is frozen and a narrator asks "What is David Beckham about to say?", giving the audience a list of possible lines. Then the action continues and I yell "Oh, for god's sake! I haven't broken anything, now I'll have to play for England!"

We did everything we'd learnt over the past few weeks tonight, finishing off with "The Change", which I think describes the group perfectly!

I had a really fantastic evening and from what I saw, so did everybody else, audience and performers alike! I felt that there wasn't any "I am the best!" attitudes but we were all working together, helping each other out and looking at each other to check we were doing things right.

There's no more Shed MK for 3 weeks! I don't think I can wait that long!


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