English Teaching Theatre

What is English Teaching Theatre?

The idea of using theatre to teach English originated in the early 70s with the aptly named English Teaching Theatre, a talented group of London based teacher/actors led by Doug Case and Ken Wilson who started performing their comedy and music shows to teach English to foreign students. They toured abroad with great success and paved the way for a host of other companies who in their different ways contributed to the teaching of English to schoolchildren and adults in a dynamic and amusing way.

The key to English Teaching Theatre is to perform entertaining shows at a level of English that your audience can understand whilst revising key structures and vocabulary that the students have learnt at school.

A career in English
Teaching Theatre in Italy

I got into English Teaching Theatre by chance after 20 years of teaching and performing Physical Theatre in Italy.

English only became compulsory in Italian Primary Schools in 2003 (before that they taught French) and thousands of Italian Primary School Teachers had to be trained to teach English from scratch. There was a need for English teacher trainers.

As an Englishman who was resident in Italy and was currently running a physical theatre school in Turin I was asked to run courses on behalf of the Education authority. As well as my physical theatre experience, I had trained for a month at International House in London (where the original English Teaching Theatre came from) and had taught for a year in the British Churchill language school in Turin while recovering from a back operation in 1985.

The Italian Education authority invested heavily in English teaching in Primary School and I was kept busy running teacher training courses. As a result of this work with numerous teachers I was soon asked if I could perform shows in English in their schools.

I had some mime routines, some magic and some comedy half masks made by Michael Chase and I put together a simple one man show called Me and My Chicken which toured extensively for Primary Schools. It was a lot of fun and involved a lot of stupidity and laughter and in every performance the whole audience would come up to meet and dance with my chicken! It was a riot.
Following this I was asked to perform a show for the scuola materna of my 4 year old daughter. My mother, who was an excellent puppet maker, had just closed her enchanting puppet and mask shop in London, Harlequin House, and with the bulk of the puppets I received I created a whirlwind show Hello Hello Hello which I still perform to this day with Carolina Khoury or Alessia Donadio.
The interactive half-mask show Dr. Horror's School of English, initially with Stewart Arnold and Luisella Cocco, was the result of a teacher-training workshop for middle school teachers
Franky Goes to Hollywood...and Back
followed shortly afterwards co-created with celebrity (and ex-pupil) Francesco Giorda.
At the same time I started to collaborate with the Primary School Teacher/ singer/songwriter Francesco Mancino with whom I wrote countless songs to teach English and this led to our first shows together: Here Comes The Train and later Festivity Planet where Francesco played the guitar and sang and I provided the comedy. As Francesco had a wealth of experience in the Primary School these shows closely followed the Italian English syllabus as well as being interactive and funny.
The workload increased and it was becoming a full time job. I needed full-time actors.

In 2006 the first actor came out from England to work with me - a young Greg Chapman - and gradually Action Theatre expanded, developing our workshows and touring all over North and Central Italy with different groups of actors.
I would like to thank the over 150 actors who have worked with me over the years and have added their unique personalities and enthusiasm to all the workshows, theatre shows and workshops. It has not always been easy but I am truly grateful for everything they have done. We have had some fun times and I have been lucky to work with such talent. Many of the actors appear in the photos. Click on the button below to view a list of all those who have worked with Action Theatre.
Actors list
I want to leave you with this amusing song SPAGHETTI which a group of actors recorded with super sound technician Carlo Girardi during the breaks in summer camp training some years ago. The song was written by me with help from Philip Radice and Andrea Bove.

I choreographed a basic routine and the rest was left to the improvisational and musical skills of the actors! I hope you find the result entertaining. The actors are Juliet Turnbull, Aimee Hislop, Emma Beard, Rob Driscoll, Emma Longthorne, David Kirkwood, Felicity Dorey, Angela Eyton, Bruce Hanson, Ben O’Shea.
Each year now Action Theatre tour workshows and perform plays in theatres; we run playweeks and playdays where young Italian students learn to act in English and we organise Action Theatre Summer Camps.
For more information check out
Action Theatre website
What is a workshow?
The Action Theatre Workshow
Our workshows combine the attributes of the drama workshop with storytelling to entertain and teach English to young learners. Workshows are performed in any school environment (a classroom, a gym, a corridor, a refectory!) with no stage lighting or technicians. They are usually delivered to small groups of students and many workshows are for a maximum of one class at a time.