West End date for special pupils

Youngsters at the Talbot Special school who are taking part in a production of Midsummer Nights dream at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
Youngsters at the Talbot Special school who are taking part in a production of Midsummer Nights dream at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

YOUNGSTERS from a Sheffield special school are simply sold on Shakespeare – and tomorrow night their take on the Bard will be centre stage at one of London’s most prestigious theatres.

Talbot School at Norton Lees is one of only four schools from 600 chosen to represent the best of the National Shakespeare Schools Festival at the Royal Court Theatre.

Pupils will be appearing alongside Jenny Agutter – currently starring on the big screen in Avengers Assemble – and TV presenter Sue Perkins, who is the host for the night.

Talbot’s contribution will be the pupils’ interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which they first performed last year at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre.

Although the youngsters have a variety of learning difficulties and disabilities, judges were knocked out by their enthusiasm, confidence and style.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be chosen – it’s an amazing achievement for the children,” said Dr Catherine Holmes, the school’s head of creative arts.

“Our students have raised their game, thanks in part to workshops where they’ve worked as equals with students from mainstream schools.

“They’ve really embraced the challenge of rehearsing for a top London performance with professionalism and gusto.”

Before the show the pupils will be taken on a coach tour of the capital before arriving in style in the West End.

Talbot has been involved in the festival for the past four years, an annual event which gives the pupils the chance to work with professionals from the National Youth Theatre.

“Working with professional actors has enabled me to learn and then incorporate mainstream, inclusive drama techniques into our performances,” Catherine added.

Former Talbot student Chris Sampson took part in festival productions in 2009 and 2010 at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield, later auditioning for the National Youth Theatre – and becoming the first member with disabilities ever to gain a place.

Tomorrow’s performance is a fundraiser for the festival project, with tickets costing £25 a head.