Portsmouth children take to the stage in Shakespeare Schools Festival

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THE CITY’S children have been putting the finishing touches to their rehearsals for this week’s Shakespeare Schools Festival. 

More than 100 children from St Edmund’s Catholic School, Ark Charter Academy, Mayville High School and Miltoncross Academy are to perform classic Shakespeare plays to a packed audience at the New Theatre Royal.

Miltoncross pupils rehearse for their performance of Much Ado About Nothing.

Miltoncross pupils rehearse for their performance of Much Ado About Nothing.

St Edmund’s pupils will be performing a contemporary take on the romantic comedy, Twelfth Night.

Year 11 pupil, Jade Cosgrave, 15, who plays Olivia, said: ‘We have been practising since September and I’m really excited about performing on stage. My mum and friends are coming to watch the show.’

Fellow cast member, Forest Leaning, 13, who plays Malvolio, added: ‘I’ve just started getting involved in drama and while I’m looking forward to the performance I’m also really nervous. I really enjoyed putting the play together – it’s very funny.’

For teachers, the production provides an opportunity for children to develop both academically and personally.

English and drama teacher, Poppy Byrne, took part in a Shakespeare Schools production when she was a pupil.

Poppy said: ‘We have to cover Shakespeare text at both Key Stage 3 (Year 7-9) and Key Stage 4 (Year 10 and 11) and this really helps them to understand Shakespeare. It really helps them to become experts in the texts we study. We studied Twelfth Night with the Year 8 boys and a lot of them were keen to get involved.’

Head of drama, Sarah Deacon, added: ‘It’s fantastic for the children to be able to perform in a professional space and in front of a paying audience. You really see the children grow in confidence and it’s also lovely to see pupils from different year groups mix and become friends. One of the younger students would hardly say a word at the start of this process and they’ve really come out of their shell when communicating with other children and adults.’

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The evening of entertainment will also include comedy performances of Much Ado About Nothing, from Miltoncross Academy, As You Like it, from Ark Charter Academy and a production of the tragedy, Hamlet, by Mayville High School. Tickets are still available for tonight’s show and can be purchased on the door. 

The event in Portsmouth is part of a national initiative in which 20,000 children will get to perform in some of the country’s most prestigious theatres.