Shakespeare Schools Festival in the south east
The Shakespeare’s Schools Festival (SSF) is now in its thirteenth year and, believing in the need to invest in the cultural education of the next generation, the cast workshops are delivered by Central School of Speech and Drama to convince young people that they have a voice and are capable of putting on a memorable performance.
The National Theatre provides directorial training for their seven hundred dedicated teachers, showing them how best to unlock Shakespeare’s text for their young pupils. This year, with the aim to engage children as young as eight, two hundred of them are teachers at primary schools.
SSF’s CEO, Penelope Middelboe said, "There is something very exciting about entrusting the work of one of our most monumental playwrights to the next generation.
"It is only by allowing young people to discover for themselves how art helps to make sense of their world that the UK will be able to retain its leading position as a nation with a rich cultural heritage and strong contribution to the arts."
125 schools across the south east will be taking to stages to perform in this year’s nationwide Festival, and throughout October and November schoolchildren from the ages of 8-18 will be making Shakespeare’s words their own in 17 south east theatres.
East evening, four different Shakespeare plays will be performed in youthful interpretations and with creative concepts such as a Bollywood-style A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet tell their story in the middle of the London riots, but each production will be united by the iconic words written more than 400 years before these performers were born.
Beginning with just 8 schools and 200 pupils thirteen years ago, SSF has since enabled over 100,000 children to perform abridged plays in professional theatres across the UK. This year, for the first time, they are working in partnership with Central School of Speech and Drama, which has funded the devising and delivery of this year’s cast workshops.
15,000 young people, 23% of whom have disabilities and difficulties of some kind, will play their part in this year’s non-competitive presentation of 21 Shakespearean abridgements across the country, and, thanks to this summer’s many celebrations of national artistic heritage, these renditions will be more familiar to their audiences than ever before.
Helena, aged 10, said, “when the audience was standing and clapping, a strike of confidence tingled inside me”.
Performances will take place in Basingstoke, Bognor Regis, Bracknell, Brighton, Camberley, Cranbrook, Dartford, Eastleigh, Folkestone, Guildford, High Wycombe, Newport (Isle of Wight), Leatherhead, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Portsmouth.