london stage dream for school shakespeare cast

Shakespeare Schools Festival Sets the Stage for a Brighter Future at London's Royal Court Theatre
Shakespeare Schools Festival Sets the Stage for a Brighter Future at London's Royal Court Theatre

IT might not be midsummer yet but youngsters from a Sheffield special school were in dreamland last weekend when they got to perform on the London stage.

Talbot School at Norton Lees was one of only four schools chosen from 600 to appear at a special gala night for the National Shakespeare Schools Festival at the Royal Court Theatre.

They presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream which they performed last year at the Lyceum Theatre as part of the nationwide festival.

They made the play their own with an enchanted forest where characters hide in the trees and comic mechanicals who appear drunk as they enter the heady fairy kingdom. The students, who have a variety of learning difficulties and disabilities, had impressed the judges with their confidence, style and ability.

“We feel so honoured and thrilled to have been chosen,” said Catherine Holmes, school head of creative arts.

“There were 20 students aged 11 to 19 performing and the production covers about 10% of the play but we keep the Shakespearean language as much as possible.”

“We hired a coach and with members of staff, parents and friends it was a party of 57. We had a two-hour sightseeing tour – and got to see the Shard. Then we went to the theatre and spent four hours in rehearsal and tech-ing. It was so exciting.”

The audience at the fundraising show-case for the festival which costs £1.2m per year to run included Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, Ian Hislop and Cherie Booth. “We also got to meet Jenny Agutter who was so sweet and chatted to the kids.”

It is the fourth year Talbot have participated in the festival. This autumn they will tackle The Tempest.