“Put your play into formal narratives, and I will help you and your
classmates listen to one another. In this way, you will build a literature
of images and themes, of beginnings and endings, of references and allusions.
You must invent your own literature if you are to connect your ideas to the ideas of others.”
Paley,V. G. (1990). The Boy who Would Be a Helicopter
Nearly every day Ned, Richard, George and Adam played pirates Sometimes they all played together, but often broke off into pairs. One day Ned and Richard made the climbing frame into their ship.
George and Adam made their ship from loose parts –tyres, ladders, steering wheel, blocks, carpet, reels, pipes, wheelbarrow… and more.
The ground around was the sea, filled with sharks and crocodiles.
When Ned and Richard played together, it was Ned who always wanted to be the captain. But, that day, when Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank Ned’, things began to change. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house.
‘I’m the captain, Richard!’ he shouted.
He couldn’t accept Richard’s version of the story, the one where Richard would be the Captain, and he would end up in the water.
I tried to help.
‘There could be two captains’.
‘No! I’m not playing,’ said Ned.
Ned wouldn’t compromise. He stayed by the cubby, watching and scowling. Richard was faced with a choice – let Ned be the captain (again) or, go and play with George and Adam on their pirate ship. He turned his back on Ned and went to join the others on their pirate ship, where when they turned the steering wheel, the electricity went on and off. They needed electricity to search for the treasure. Adam turned the electricity on. After a few seconds Richard turned it off.
‘Don’t turn the electricity off!’ said George.
‘Yes’, said Adam. ‘We’ve reached the treasure.’
The three of them jumped off the ship and went to search for treasure. Richard looked over at Ned who was still watching from the cubby house. Could persuade Ned to come back?
‘You’re turn, Ned!’
‘No! I’m the Captain’.
‘We’re playing workers now’, said Richard
‘No!’ said Ned, ‘We’re playing pirates.’
A few moments later, Ned past the boys looking for treasure.
‘Come on, Richard,’ he said. ‘Let’s go and be workers.’
Richard glanced up at him.
‘Richard, let’s do work.’
‘What sort of work?’
‘We’re working, trying if there’s no gaps in the ship.’
Richard stood still, then turned away from Ned and went on looking for treasure.
Ned and Richard didn’t work it out that day. In the free flow of the pirate dramas, these disagreements continued. Real-life dilemmas seeped into their imaginary storyplay as they tried to work out the twists and turns of social relationships.