21ST CEN­TURY Shake­speare

A group of Nor­folk teenagers is tread­ing the boards at Nor­wich The­atre Royal, bring­ing one of the Bard’s most fa­mous works to life

EDP Norfolk - - EDUCATION - WORDS: Rachel Buller

It is a time­less story of in­tense love and pas­sion, of youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and fam­ily feuds the orig­i­nal star-crossed lovers. Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet is as rel­e­vant to­day as when it was first writ­ten and this month a group of Nor­folk school chil­dren will per­form the play along­side the pro­fes­sion­als at Nor­wich The­atre Royal.

The stu­dents – four from Or­mis­ton Vic­tory Academy in Costessey and four from Notre Dame High School in Nor­wich – have been cho­sen to take part in the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany’s lat­est tour­ing pro­duc­tion.

The the­atre’s learn­ing and par­tic­i­pa­tion Di­rec­tor Wendy El­lis, says “We are thrilled to be part­ner­ing with the RSC in bring­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­gage­ment to a wide va­ri­ety of peo­ple across Nor­folk as we work to­gether to max­imise the im­pact and value of the arts. The young peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in Romeo and Juliet have an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to not only be a part of this ex­cit­ing pro­duc­tion, but also to be­come Shake­speare am­bas­sadors within their schools. As an am­bas­sador, they will com­mit to ad­vo­cat­ing for Shake­speare, re­hearsal room ap­proaches and the­atre-mak­ing in their school and lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

The con­tem­po­rary take on the clas­sic play was per­formed to crit­i­cal ac­claim at Strat­ford-Upon-Avon in 2018 be­fore go­ing out on tour and will see Bally Gill and Karen Fish­wick reprise their roles of Romeo and Juliet, with RSC deputy artis­tic di­rec­tor Erica Why­man di­rect­ing.

Lucy Dal­gleish, teacher of per­form­ing arts at Costessey, says part­ner­ships such as this were hugely im­por­tant.

“It is fan­tas­tic for their con­fi­dence and will give them in­valu­able stage and act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Also, tak­ing part in this play en­ables the stu­dents to bring Shake­speare into their world. By bring­ing it back to the class­room, it re­ally fires up ev­ery­one’s en­thu­si­asm. Any teenager can re­late to this tale – it is about fall­ing outs among friends, about not al­ways agree­ing with their fam­i­lies, about fall­ing in love for the first

“I found my­self speak­ing up and in­ter­act­ing more in les­sons”

time – the themes of Romeo and Juliet never re­ally go out of fash­ion.”

Costessey pupil Grace Stur­man, 13, said since be­com­ing in­volved in the per­form­ing arts her con­fi­dence had soared.

“I was en­cour­aged to take part in the school pro­duc­tion and I was com­pletely wel­comed into the per­form­ing arts fam­ily; it gave me so much con­fi­dence and ev­ery­one was bril­liant. As a re­sult, I found my­self speak­ing up and in­ter­act­ing more in les­sons.”

Sa­man­tha Or­ciel, head of English and drama at Notre Dame, says they held au­di­tions for the four places in the RSC pro­duc­tion.

“The re­sponse was in­cred­i­ble, 55 pupils au­di­tioned and all we gave them was the pro­logue to read. It was com­pletely up to them what they did with it, but there was some­thing dif­fer­ent in these four chil­dren; they made us be­lieve they re­ally felt some­thing.

“The project pro­vides a re­ally im­por­tant cross cur­ricu­lum link. These pupils will be­come Shake­speare am­bas­sadors, go­ing into classes to do lit­tle per­for­mances to bring the text to life for other stu­dents study­ing it. And, for them per­son­ally, it is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to learn from the pro­fes­sion­als.”

Jan­uary 29 to Feb­ru­ary 2, the­atreroy­al­nor­wich.co.uk

Photo: To­pher McGril­lis © RSC

Karen Fish­wick and Bally Gill as Juliet and Romeo

Photo: To­pher McGril­lis © RSC

An­drew Finch as Friar Lau­rence

Stu­dents who will par­tic­i­pate in the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet (left to right): Maia Deklu, Jenifer Tavares, Dar­ragh Bush, Grace Stur­man, Ty Steven­son, Do­min­ion Iwo, Emma Stephen­son and Te­gan Berry

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