SHAKESPEARE Schools is a terrific national festival introducing the young to the English language’s most famous playwright, with schools all over the country performing half-hour adaptations of certain of his plays.
Last year, Wirral earned national accolades when Overchurch Juniors were invited to perform their Stuart Rathe-directed version of Macbeth at London’s Royal Court, watched by the likes of Education Secretary Michael Gove and Cherie Blair.
First up this year was St Mary’s Catholic College with Macbeth. Director Miss C Rogers reinvented it as a gang tale, with brilliant use of music – Johnny Cash’s Hurt sticks especially in the memory – and Holly Dawson’s Lady Macbeth the pick of a confident bunch of young actors.
The University Church of England Academy were next with their Taming Of The Shrew (director: Clair Saunders), cleverly begun with a Take Me Out skit with Baptista Minola (Rebecca Linwood) playing the Paddy McGuinness role. As shrew Katherina and suitor Petruchio, Hannah McMurray and Adam Manning stole the show but it was a terrific ensemble effort with every member playing their part.
The prize for most fun production of the night, though, undoubtedly goes to Clare Mount Specialist Sports College’s outstanding 1970s disco remix of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Julie MacLeand and Claire Vicars.
The entire cast, whose natural enthusiasm transmitted itself completely to the audience, donned wildly extravagant outfits, from Austin Powers-alike Benedick (Matthew Burgess) to a purple afro-ed and jumpsuited Beatrice (Charlotte Derbyshire).
The half-hour performance was nothing short of a triumph, and whoever had the brilliant idea of using celebrity faces at the masked ball – from Barack Obama and David Cameron to Prince William and Kate – deserves a medal.
Last up and unsurprisingly back again this year was Overchurch with Romeo and Juliet, this time directed by Mr Rathe and colleague Colette Corlett.
The youngest cast on show served up another fantastic display, with Ellis Bolton the stand-out performer as the narrator, but – as was the case with every school – each cast member performing excellently.
With no or little gimmickry, Overchurch succeeded in presenting an absorbing and easy-to-understand translation of R&J, ending the night on the highest of notes.