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
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
Karen Fishwick and Bally Gill as Juliet and Romeo
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