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Shakespeare Schools Festival at Greenwich Theatre

James Haddrell with Linton Mead school children in rehearsal
James Haddrell with Linton Mead school children in rehearsal

Twenty-three schools, including both primary and secondary, will perform half-hour versions of Shakespeare plays over six nights at Greenwich Theatre in the first week of November 2016.

The schools, including seven from the Royal Borough of Greenwich, will take part in the 17th annual Shakespeare Schools Festival at the theatre on Crooms Hill.

It’s a magical experience for all the children and young people taking part,” said artistic and executive director James Haddrell. “It’s quite moving, the moment they stand on stage for the first time and look out at the 400 seats that will be filled by their families, friends, teachers and Shakespeare lovers.

When I joined Greenwich Theatre as Press Officer in 2001 it was one of the first projects I worked on – it was in its second year – and 15 years later we’re delighted to welcome everyone to two hours of bold, fresh and often unexpected approaches to Shakespeare. One year a secondary school from the borough presented Macbeth as a Scottish reel with highland dancing!

At Linton Mead primary in Thamesmead the Year 6 company of 30 performers and 5 technicians have been working on their shortened version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream since their return for the new school year.

Deputy head Lucy Timmons said: “We started rehearsing when we got back to school in September and it’s gone really well. We’ve done a lot of playing with characters and rehearsal techniques, and the children have been brilliant. We’ve worked on the words but haven’t worried too much about that. We’re just enjoying telling the story. I had the fear of Shakespeare and all the words at secondary school. Then I trained as an actress a few years ago at drama school and absolutely loved Shakespeare, and I want the children to feel the same joy and excitement.

Ten-year-old Favour, who plays one of the narrators, said: “I haven’t done Shakespeare before but I think it’s really enjoyable because I like acting something that is not real life. I can just let go of everything else really.

Ibrahim, also 10, plays Oberon. He said: “It’s been fun and enjoyable because I like to learn all the different techniques, and I like the way Miss Timmons lets us work out our own characters. We all went to the school studio for an audition and Miss Timmons chose the cast. I think I will be nervous at Greenwich Theatre but not too nervous. I’m really looking forward to it.

I think this is a brilliant route into Shakespeare at a very young age,” said James Haddrell, after a visit to Linton Mead rehearsals. “By shortening the plays, while still using Shakespeare’s language, you are taking away some of the barriers to understanding and opening up the core stories that everyone can engage with. The pupils at Linton Mead are producing some fantastic work, and loving the crazy magical comedy of the play. I can’t wait to see what all the other schools have done with their productions.

Shakespeare Schools Festival
Mon 31 October-Sat 5 November 2016
http://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/

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