Boys Celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday
Wednesday, 29 January 2014
This year, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, the Boys’ Division is bringing his works to life for the pupils. In fact, by the end of the summer term, every year group will have had the opportunity to enjoy a professional production of one of Shakespeare’s works.
Sixth Formers visited Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform the bloody tragedy Titus Andronicus at the Swan Theatre. Despite the grim themes of the play, this was a great opportunity to see the Bard’s work performed in his home town by the company which uses his name.
In December, theatre company Theatrical Niche brought Macbeth into school for the Year 9 boys during a SPACE session. The production focused on the themes of greed, manipulation and guilt within the play. Using Brechtian techniques and borrowing inspiration from Beckett and Ionesco, this version of Macbeth was by no means a traditional Shakespearean production, but it was nonetheless powerful and provided the boys with plenty of discussion points afterwards.
Year 7 are already looking forward to their theatre trip to the Octagon in Bolton, where they will watch Twelfth Night. As the theatre is describing their production as “Downton Abbey meets Upstairs, Downstairs” this is bound to be an entertaining adaptation of the play!
In the summer term, Year 8 will be watching Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. There will also be a second trip to see this play available to all year groups. Director Maria Aberg says on the Royal Exchange Theatre website that “Audiences can expect joy, belly laughs, hopefully the odd teary eye” so this too should be a memorable production for the boys who attend.
However, the Boys’ Division was not content to simply sit back and enjoy Shakespeare’s works; there are also extensive plans to perform them. For Years 7 and 8, this will culminate at the Lower School Shakespeare Festival in the summer term. Each Year 7 form will perform a potted version of a Comedy, while Year 8 will produce reduced History plays.
Boys in Year 10 through to the Sixth Form are now in rehearsals for this year’s Joint Production, which is also a Shakespeare production: the iconic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Like Theatrical Niche’s Macbeth, this will not be a straightforward or traditional performance. The original text has been abridged and edited to include lyrics from popular songs. This modernisation keeps the play fresh, while retaining and even emphasising all of the important themes.
By the end of the school year, across all of the year groups, the Boys’ Division will have performed fourteen Shakespeare plays in school. These productions will have spanned the full range of Shakespeare’s works: Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.