To be, or not to be …

‘To be, or not to be-that is the question.’ I remember reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy over and over and driving my poor mum and sister mad when I was at school. Since then I have seen numerous  Shakespeare productions in various theatres and languages including a production of Hamlet in Russian with English surtitles, which was brilliant and a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in Dutch which involved a lot of rapping.

William Shakespeare

Now every time I go to see my mum we try and squeeze a theatre trip into the visit. So being a pretty big theatre fan I gladly offered to help my friend out at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloan Square yesterday afternoon.

It was warm and sunny outside as I walked through the stage door of the theatre, where I was greeted with a “welcome to the madhouse” by my friend, who’d been there since the morning.

Royal Court Theatre

I’d never been to the Royal Court before and was quite taken by the theatre’s intimate yet classic interior and the relaxed social bar area. We walked through the auditorium where one of the four schools selected to perform their Shakespeare production at the Gala evening organised by the Shakespeare Schools Festival (SSF), were busy rehearsing for the evening’s performance.

The SSF is a charity which runs the largest youth drama festival in the UK, enabling 100,000 young people and schools across the country to unlock their potential on the stage and provides an active and fun way of learning the classics.

Shakespeare’s productions are timeless and unlike what many young people may initially think, it can be lots of fun and performed and interpreted in many different ways.  This was clearly evident in yesterday’s performances where each school put their own spin on the classical plays of Macbeth, Twelfth Night and A Midsmmer Night’s Dream.

When I was at school my school didn’t put a lot of emphasis on theatre and acting, the only thing that was performed on a yearly basis was a musical put together by the fourth years (Year 10). I was studying abroad the year my class was involved in the production of Godspell so I didn’t get to partake. But after seeing enough of the productions over the years, I have to say the performances of the four schools and the soloist last night were really great.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by Riddlesdown Collegiate, Surrey

Having seen them behind the scenes rehearsing during the afternoon and putting them in place for the photographer to take pictures, the transformation when the lights were dimmed and the theatre filled up was amazing. The production of Twelfth Night by the St. John Fisher High School was brilliant. The costumes were great, and the hilarious performances of Malvolio and Maria and the drunken brawling of Sir Tobey and Sir Andrew had the audience laughing for much of the show.

I was seriously impressed by the professionalism, obvious enjoyment and real talent on stage from all four schools and the solo performance. Unfortunately for me, the local secondary school I attended was pretty mediocre to awful so sadly I never got the chance to try out my acting skills.

Maybe in another lifetime, but for now I’ll just have to continue enjoying theatre visits and watching others on stage!

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