As we began our Shakespeare Schools Festival journey in September, I told the cast and crew that our job was to fully understand the SSF abridged version of Shakespeare’s complicated story, and to share that understanding with our audience. On the 14th of November, I had the privilege of spending a thoroughly enjoyable evening at Dance East, watching them do exactly that. The storytelling was clear and successful, the language handled with skill and ease, the ensemble built the world of the play and drew the story together, and the technical crew ran the lighting and sound flawlessly – working fully independently with the professional theatre equipment. I was able to stand at the back of the lighting box, in my silent supervisory role, and enjoy a quality piece of theatre.

The feedback we received on the night, from our professional appraiser, audience members and the other schools performing, was testament to the hard work and dedication of the cast and crew. It is no easy task just remembering the lines and planning the technical aspects, never mind bringing them to life so effectively. And when your director tells you that there will be no blackouts and everybody will stay on stage throughout, every role becomes of vital importance.

There were outstanding individual performances, with highly skilled delivery of complex language and very effective comic responses.

Megan B. and Amelia M., as the two Antipholuses, delivered their lines with precision and ease, convincing us of their growing frustrations at the madness of the situations that they found themselves in; matching them with highly expressive performances and skilled use of comic timing were Phoebe and Zanna A. as the two Dromios. Sophie E. and Lucy B. were strident and utterly convincing as the wife and sister of a man whose behaviour appears more and more erratic and dangerous.

Florence E. took on the role of Angelo the jeweller only two weeks before the performance, but, along with Niamh C. as a fun-loving partygoer and hipster ‘Duke’, showed maturity and conviction throughout. Lily C. as the affronted courtesan, Florence W. as the eccentric and ineffectual Dr. Pinch and Jemima M. as the highly engaging hippy yoga retreat ‘Abbess’ brought strength and clarity to their roles. Libby K. and Roxy L. engaged the audience from the beginning with their introduction of the story. Ella H. (Messenger), Cassia M. (Merchant), Hannah U. (Officer), Saba S. (Foreign Merchant), Sophie B. (Balthazar) and Niamh E. (Dromios’ Mother/Dr Pinch’s Assistant) added to their ensemble contributions with strong individual character roles. Molly B. gave a 60s feel to the piece with a colourful set of fun costumes.

Saba S. worked with Abby S. and Sophie P. to develop the music and comedy sound effects that added so much to the atmosphere and feel of the piece. Kirsten P. ensured all the props were in place, and the marketing team of Saoirse K. and Martha T. also supported the production throughout. On the night, Sophie P. ran the sound and Abby S. ran the lighting with professionalism and skill.

I would like to express to all the cast and crew my sincere thanks for all their hard work, creativity and commitment. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Shakespeare Schools Festival experience. Look out for auditions in September 2018.

By Paul Stone, Director of Drama