RSC playmaking festival for schools goes online

Published: 25 June 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

Students from the Nelson Mandela school, Birmingham taking part in a voice workshop before performing in the 2019 Playmaking Festival Credit: Sara Beaumont

More than 100 young people from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s associate schools programme are to share a series of original digital responses to Shakespeare’s plays.

In previous summers, pupils from across the country have followed in the footsteps of some of the world’s best-known actors by performing on stage in Stratford as part of the RSC’s Playmaking Festival.

The 2020 festival is unable to go ahead because of the coronavirus outbreak, so it will go online and will feature contributions from more than 75 schools.

Pupils still at school or learning from home have been set challenges inspired by As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew. Young people have been urged to design their own versions of the Forest of Arden, film a video of themselves performing speeches from Shakespeare’s plays or create Petruchio’s wedding outfit from The Taming of the Shrew.

A compilation of virtual performances will première on YouTube on Wednesday 8 July on what would have been a day of performances as part of the playmaking festival on the Swan Theatre stage in Stratford.

The festival will include an original piece of work by the RSC’s young company of actors, Next Generation Act. Decameron2020: Under Lockdown, inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, looks at young people’s hopes and fears.

The production was originally due to be performed at The Other Place, Stratford as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Projekt Europa Festival, a new season of work “celebrating the best of European theatre and theatre-making”.

RSC director of education Jacqui O’Hanlon said, “there is growing concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the mental well-being of young people. Theatre and arts have a vital role to play in the recovery of young people, communities and schools.

“The Playmaking Festival is one example of many across the UK and around the world where we see an outpouring of artistic work from people of all ages and at all stages of their lives.”