Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Chance for Children to Get the Best out of the Bard

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Chance for Children to Get the Best out of the Bard

Article excerpt

Byline: Louise Jury

YOU can catch Shakespeare at any turn in London this summer. But if you want the Bard with brownie points, then a one-off gala at the Royal Court is promising a rollicking night out for a very worthy cause.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival is presenting a snapshot of the work it does with young people across the country -- with the aim of raising funds to pay for more students to take part. The SSF wants to give every child in Britain the chance to perform Shakespeare on a professional stage using specially abridged texts of the classics.

The aim is not so much to create the David Tennants of the future as to develop literacy and boost confidence, in some cases giving children with few other achievements something to be proud of. It's a cause every supporter of the Standard's Get London Reading campaign can applaud.

The results, claim the organisers, can be staggering. This year an abridged Julius Caesar by 16- and 17-year-olds from London's St Marylebone Church of England School was deemed such a knockout they have now been chosen to open the event.

Their 28-year-old drama teacher, Jack Stigner, says they're "honoured" and are treating the appearance as a warm-up for the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. "In schools, so much comes down to exams and results, but this is something completely separate from that. It enriches their experience. It's for themselves rather than being for a mark. It's a moment they can remember and cherish and through that they are transformed," he says. "If the opportunity had been available when I was at school, I would have lapped it up. It's fantastic," he says.

Stigner, like other teachers involved, got the chance of professional training as a director at the National Theatre under the SSF programme. And the young people have their own workshops with participants from other schools, all in preparation for a series of performances that take place every autumn in 90 venues nationwide including the Unicorn Theatre in London. …

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