SHAKESPEARE SCHOOLS FESTIVAL
Civic Theatre Chelmsford
This was just one of 320 performances across the UK in this year's Festival.
Four local schools, each given just 30 minutes to present a Shakespeare play to a packed audience in a proper theatre.
First up, Columbus School and College with a colourful take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Speech bubbles for key lines, and loads of music [Wicked as well as settings of Will's words] from the live band and vocalists. Infectious enthusiasm from a large cast, including a scene-stealing Oberon, and a lively Bergamasque to end.
Great Waltham Primary School brought us Twelfth Night, with helpful t-shirts naming the characters and the two excellent narrators, matching hats for the twins, and some outstanding performances, including Sir Toby with his braces and his tankard, and an arrogant little Malvolio in yellow stockings. They ended with an ensemble version of Feste's song – the clown himself a casualty of the cuts.
Junior boys from King Edward's gave a compelling, minimalist Julius Caesar, the text spoken intelligently and with exemplary clarity. An ever-present chorus reflected the moods of the mob, and there were some stunning moments of stagecraft – Speak Hands For Me, for instance, the death of Caesar with the background lounge jazz suddenly, menacingly loud. The orator Mark Anthony, Brutus and Cassius all gave impressively assured performances, and there were many promising contributions amongst the smaller parts.
Notley High School and Braintree Sixth Form tackled The Winter's Tale very successfully, with superb effects from the company – the whispering and the breaking waves – as well as some very mature central performances from, amongst many others, Camillo and the King of Bohemia.
production photograph from the 2014 Festival © SSF