Shakespeare Schools Festival

“You know… you have a lot more in common with Shakespeare than you think.”

   Badewa Lahan, Walworth Academy  

After months of readings, rehearsals, costume and set designing, ARK pupils stole the limelight at the Shaw Theatre in London when they had opportunity to demonstrate their talent and perform a range of Shakespeare plays as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival

Over two nights, 11 and 12 November, packed audiences marvelled at the outstanding performances by:

  • Ark Academy – The Shakespeare Story (a collection of Shakespeare Plays)
  • ARK Putney Academy – Macbeth
  • Bolingbroke Academy – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Burlington Danes Academy – Much Ado About Nothing
  • Charter Academy – Romeo and Juliet
  • Evelyn Grace Academy – Much Ado about Nothing
  • Isaac Newton Academy – Romeo and Juliet
  • Walworth Academy – Measure for Measure
  “I enjoyed playing Lady Macbeth. Her character is really dark and although she is strong and powerful she still breaks down. The way she does it is very emotional and I enjoyed putting in my own personal emotions to try to bring this across. I’ve had to really stretch my acting skills to do this.”  
   Erica Nuamah - ARK Putney. Macbeth – plays Lady Macbeth  

In the build-up to the Festival, ARK students worked very hard in preparing for performances, almost exclusively in their own time, during after school rehearsals that are delivered as part of broad extra-curricular and enrichment opportunities in each ARK School and their outstanding performances were the result of the hard work and dedication of the performance directors and students.

The Shakespeare Festival is delivered in partnership with the nationally acclaimed Shakespeare Schools Festival, the UK’s largest youth drama festival, offering students from all backgrounds the opportunity to perform Shakespeare on a professional stage. 

  “Learning Shakespeare with these young people is a privilege, an excitement… and pretty exhausting to be honest. The early rehearsals of bonding, the cast struggling with language, realising the themes and the characters are always tricky for me and for them. But slowly, something remarkable happens. They start to get the characters. They start to get the play – really get it. It happens without you realising it: and then, and this is the case every single time, and you remember why Shakespeare and drama are so important. It’s because young people can become someone else, someone different, larger, funnier, and more dramatic than their everyday personas. It’s because it gives them confidence and stature. It’s because they love it. When they come off stage, they want to go straight back on it again. That tells me all I need to know. I’m very proud of them!"  
   James Robinson, Performance Director, Charter Academy  


  "I play Lady Macbeth and it’s a part that I really like to play. Her character is really dark but I think her personality shows that even though she’s strong and really powerful person there will still be a time when you eventually break down. The way she breaks down is very emotional and when I play her I like to put in my own personal emotions to try to bring this across. I’ve had to really stretch my acting skills to do this. 

This has really helped my confidence and I’ve realised I’m more confident than I think. Before I was just contemplating it all and asking myself was I really going to be good at Shakespeare. I’ve learned that it’s easy over-exaggerate how scary something is but once I was here and I ran through it and sat down with the other schools and watched their performances it built my confidence a bit.

You can over exaggerate something in your head but once you experience it and calm down and realise it isn’t as bad as you think and it’s achievable. It’s great to get feedback if you’ve done well – reassurance is good – it’s good to hear that you’ve done good. It’s been good being with the other ARK schools because I’m curious to see what they’ve interpreted their plays. I really want to see whether they have kept it traditional or added their own modern twist to it."

  Erica Nuamah - ARK Putney. Macbeth – plays Lady Macbeth  


  "The character I play is really interesting and I’m excited to be playing this role as I get to try something different to myself as my character, Provost, is a man. I’ve being researching my role by reading, watching film clips and copying my dad walking around the house doing his stuff to try and learn how to be a man."  
   Sabrina Kenan, Walworth Academy - Measure for Measure – playing Provost  


  "This was a great evening’s entertainment. It was wonderful to see the performers, staff, parents and supporters of ARK schools coming together in this way. The festival has brought Shakespeare alive and ignited enthusiasm for the bard’s works at each of our schools. Congratulations to all who entertained us so well!"  
   Rachel Macfarlane, Principal, Isaac Newton Academy  


  "I’ve enjoyed learning Shakespeare at school and being part of the Shakespeare Festival. I play Romeo and I really like the way he can just be himself. At school I’m not always free myself and it’s been good to play someone who can be so open and honest with everyone. I’ve had to draw on my confidence to play him but I think that I will have even more confidence when I’ve performed. We have rehearsed a lot and checked our words and timings and I’m confident but a little nervous about performing. I’ll feel good when we have performed and hear the audience applause and know that our hard work has been appreciated."  
   Arjan Sharma, Year 8, Isaac Newton Academy - Romeo and Juliet – playing Romeo  


  "I’ve loved learning Shakespeare, the more you learn the more you want to read and I’ve now read lots of his plays. Once you understand them, you get to realise that stories written hundreds of years ago could be the same as stories written now on everyday TV programmes like Eastenders. It’s been great performing and showcasing our hard work and will be really helpful to me because I want to be an actress and this will let me tell people at interviews and auditions that I have studied and performed Shakespeare. Sometimes Shakespeare’s words are difficult but we all helped each other out in understanding it. All the hard work we’ve done is SO worth it. We all came together and tried it and it was amazing."  
  Nally Stanyer, Isaac Newton Academy - Romeo and Juliet – playing Tybalt  


  "The Shakespeare Schools Festival has been tremendous for our pupils. It has helped build and strengthen a core unit of pupils across a wide age group. Helping build bridges and uniting all.
An unforgettable experience! The children loved every minute and embraced the whole learning environment."
   Oliver Craze, Teacher, Walworth Academy and Director of Measure for Measure  


  "I play one of the leaders like the prince and it’s quite a big role because his plans make the whole story happen. I feel proud that I’ve been trusted to play this part and given the opportunity to perform in a theatre to such a big audience. I’ve been working hard to make sure it goes right. I feel lucky that I’ve been chosen and given the chance to play in a theatre to such a big audience. Being part of this festival has taught me how to understand Shakespeare and identify what it means which I couldn’t do before. This will help my English lessons back at school."  
   Jessica Pereira-Rodriques, Evelyn Grace Academy  


  "I’ve always had an interest in drama and I am playing Macbeth. Macbeth is in nearly every scene. Macbeth is cool. Miss Choudhary is a good director she is strict but gets it done the way she wants it. What I know of Shakespeare is that he is the person who introduced slang and I’ve learned a lot about English language while preparing for this performance and it’s helped me with my confidence."  
   Maia – ARK Putney - Macbeth – Macbeth  


  "It’s funny playing this part because I get to be experience a role that I wouldn’t normally do. This is my third year of doing the Shakespeare Festival and I learn something new every time. Last year I didn’t know that I could speak so loudly and this year I learned to make use of body language and special awareness. Next year is probably my last year and I would like to go into performing arts – I would love to go stateside to do this. 

The character that has taught me most is Lord Angelo in Measure for Measure. Playing Lord Angelo I’ve learned how to carry my voice and my body and how to use tone to make an impact. It’s been good being able to help the younger students. It’s good to feel welcomed and needed. The best feeling thought is when you’ve come off stage knowing you’ve given your best performance.

My advice to others who haven’t tried Shakespeare but are thinking about trying it is – you know… you have a lot more in common with Shakespeare than you think. Like, he created slang and may have been a bit of a rebel and it’s really good for you to have a creative outlet."

   Badwa, Walworth yr 10, Measure for Measure – playing Lord Angelo.  


  "Shakespeare Schools Festival and Bolingbroke Academy – what an amazing combination!
The entire process has been an outstanding experience for both our pupils and staff. Everyone has been on such an amazing journey and we’re so very proud of our courageous and determined cast."
  Mrs Rassette, Teacher, Bolingbroke Academy  


  "I play Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing. I enjoyed the role because I have quite a lot of acting to do and as well as all the attention being on me it makes people laugh which makes me feel like I get along with the audience. I first heard of Shakespeare in primary school but it’s the first time I’ve performed in a national theatre. I think Shakespeare is magnificent because the language is very different compared to in modern days but the old language still means the same as today when you understand it. 

Being at the Festival is fun because you learn from other people and you can adapt what they do and share it. I’m really happy to see the other ARK schools at the festival to see what they do. The biggest thing I learnt about myself is about projecting your voice and staying with your character and have fun. I can apply these skills in drama classes like how to project myself in class. My highlight has been when we are all together and performing and having fun and when it comes to the final bit because it shows how much we did in this play. Our teachers are really good, they helped us strive and achieve to come here. We wouldn’t be here without them."

   Anab Lloyd, Year 8, Ark Academy - The Shakespeare Story – playing Beatrice  


  "It’s the first time I’ve tried Shakespeare and it’s fantastic. The language and the atmosphere of all the people we are working with this. I performed in “Our House” at the Kings Theatre in Portsmouth but this is completely different. 

I’ve learned a new language and we have started to use socially, I’ve learned about history and be more confident with language. Nothing can describe how good learning Shakespeare is - it’s not just about the language but body language too. My character is good to play, he’s confident fun and a peacemaker who is always there for his cousin. I love performing and it’s great to get the opportunity to play at Kings Theatre and at the Shaw Theatre in London.

When I leave school I have two options one is to be an actor and the other is to be in the navy. Maybe I could combine my interests and take Shakespeare to the Navy.

I would like to play Romeo in the future or capulet who is interesting. I’ve learned my lines by sitting on the sofa going over and over them and then getting a friend to go over them. Mr Robinson, our director has been fantastic. He’s made it modern and given it some comedy."

   Jack Cottan, year 9, Charter Academy - Romeo and Juliet - playing Benvoilo  


  "I’m really excited about playing this part. I didn’t think I’d get to say much playing a fairy but I do and it’s really interesting. I’ve done lots of plays before but the thing I’ve learned Shakespeare plays is that I thought it would be really boring and difficult to understand but when you listen to it and watch it you actually understand what is being said. I’ve learned something new about acting and about when you say less you have to use more expression."  
   Cassia Heslop-Sandy, Bolingbroke Academy - Midsummer Night’s Dream – Peasblossom  


  "My first experience of SSF because I’ve met lots of different people and it’s been lots of fun. Shakespeare can be serious and humorous at the same time. Learning the stories has given me a sense of what is was like back in the day and how people lived. Shakespeare is difficult to learn because of the language and you really need to practice. It can be quite nerve-wracking to play such a famous persons play but once I get used to it and practice I feel confident with my lines. I would like to be an actor but maybe as a hobby. Hopefully, I would like to be a neuro-surgeon when I’m older. Learning Shakespeare has given me confidence and this will help me in the future, for example, when you think of the hardest operation that can ever be done I will need the confidence to get through it."  
  Robel Berhanykun, year 7, Burlington Danes Academy - Much Ado About Nothing – The Watchman