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Steps in to a Commision Model: David Allen

As part of our Training Week for the Erasmus+ project, we worked as a team to plan a session for a class of Year 4 children at Woodrow First School. The session was led by David Allen from Midland Actors Theatre (UK). It was based on a commission which David  had undertaken previously with a class in another school, in conjunction with Black Country Living Museum. The class was invited by the museum to design a Herb Garden for the rear of Emile Doo’s Chemist. (You can find out more about this commission here.)

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The shop is a replica of an actual shop with fittings and stock from the 1920's.

Below are before and after photos, showing how the garden was transformed with the help of the children's design.

In our session in Woodrow School, we used the same idea: we asked the children to come up with ideas for a herb garden at the back of Doo’s Chemist; and, as a first step, to find out as much as they could about Mr Doo and his shop.

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Doo's Chemist 2.jpg

The team created a replica of the shop and garden in the classroom, for the children to explore.

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Doo's Chemist replica.jpg

In planning the session, we used Dorothy Heathcote’s “33 Conventions for Dramatic Action.” These conventions were based in theatre practice but designed by Dorothy for use in the classroom.

You can find the list of conventions by clicking here.

Dorothy's conventions may be used in Mantle work, and in the Commission Model, as well as Rolling Role.


It is one way of introducing drama methods within the Commission Model, in a "non-fictional" context.

One convention we used was number 3 in Dorothy’s list:

3. The role present as in “effigy.”  Can be talked about, walked around, and even sculptured afresh if so framed.

In our case, we explained the effigies as “photographs” of people who knew Emile Doo. We then used convention number 2:

2. The role actually present, except framed as a film. That is, people have permission to stare but not intrude. “Film” can be stopped and restarted, or re-run.

The children could bring the “photographs” to life by pushing an (imaginary) button, and watch what happened - as if they were watching a piece of film. In each “film,” the “role” made certain actions and spoke a few words about Mr. Doo.

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The children could not ask questions or interact with the “role,” but they could watch the same short “film” several times, as they made notes. The videos show extracts from the session at Woodrow School.

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