Shakespeare Schools Festival 2017
On Monday 6th November, a cast of 11 pupils ranging from Year 7 to Upper Sixth performed our abridged version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ at the Gulbenkian, as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, the UK’s largest youth drama festival.
In our four week rehearsal period, our aim was to tell this wonderful, challenging story in a highly collaborative, creative, engaging way; and as our target audience would be children and their families, probably watching Shakespeare for the very first time, we were aware of the need to make our show accessible, enjoyable and easy to understand.
Performing in a professional theatre makes the art of projection and the requisite articulation essential – and that takes time, as well as disciplined, repetitive work. The ensemble nature of the piece, with the cast acting both as a group of storytellers and as characters within the story, meant rehearsals were long and, at times, arduous. They had to learn to foster tolerance, patience and generosity as they sat watching others (and others watched them) struggle with character, vocal colour, physicality, relationship, language and meaning. As time went on, their resilience and self-discipline grew, and they were able to maintain attention and energy for longer periods of time. It was an intense period for the cast, made all the more demanding by us choosing to do without the theatrics of lighting changes and recorded sound; the music and underscore was made live, by the cast, and there was only one lighting state throughout; everything was stripped back, placing the focus firmly on the actors. There was no let up for them – and nowhere to hide.
Once again, St Edmund’s pupils proved themselves to be in a league apart last Monday night, navigating the audience skillfully through this magical and unusual story, impressing everyone, young and old, with their storytelling skills, their ensemble playing and their sheer enjoyment of performing.
Mr Howard Sykes, Assistant Director of Drama