Aldenham School, Founded 1597

Shakespeare Schools Festival 2019

Aldenham’s first time to enter the Shakespeare Schools Festival (SSF) saw 23 of our Years 7 & 8 pupils perform a compelling performance of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on a professional stage. The world’s largest youth drama festival lies at the heart of SSF’s transformative process as each year they work with thousands of pupils from every community, background and school type across the UK.

Whilst ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play about love, it also focuses on the issues for young people when faced with pressures of modern life. The Aldenham performance drew its inspiration from the violence on the streets of London and the surrounding areas and the threat of ongoing violence drawing on the very topical issue of knife crime on London streets. Taking to a professional stage, with lots of members of the Aldenham community supporting them from the audience, the piece was a huge success with the adjudicator on the night commenting:

‘A powerful, pulsating, edgy, contemporary opening and we were thrust straight onto the streets of east London. Dynamic physical action and voiceover combined to signal a bold, fresh, relevant telling of this timeless tale. Characters were strong, truthful and energised throughout. So many memorable scenes and sequences of physical storytelling to savour and relish. Impressive physical theatre skills, executed with trust, discipline and control. Fights on the city streets had rhythm, heartbeat and compelling intensity. Slick and stylish choreography of reading the city news was utterly engaging. Music throughout punctuated the action perfectly. Actors were not afraid to show the depth and vulnerability of these tragic young lives. As a company you took ownership of this tragic tale, and no more so than with that fiercely fresh final ensemble moment. This was a terrific tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.’

To the delight of the Aldenham community there was another opportunity to see the production back on the Aldenham stage where a collection was made for charity.

Zane Hart and Ellie Gurner as Romeo and Juliet held the piece together with their emotional and mature interpretations of the famous lovers. In constant conflict with the love story was the violence and aggression on the streets of London, driven by Grace Freeman whose performance as Tybalt revealed the heartless and callous nature of this violent and aggressive character contrasting with Cameron Mahon’s helpless and vulnerable portrayal of Benvolio. Grace’s intensity was matched in the Montague family by Charlie Reid as Mercutio whose performance had the audience laughing one minute and in shock the next, as this tragic hero fell victim to his own impulsive nature.

At the heart of this production though was a true ensemble feel, with the whole cast moving between scenes and moments of physical theatre with ease and purpose. Huge thanks to those who supported this production, allowing it to be such a successful first Martineau’s show of the year. Particular thanks to Oliver Newland, Cole Newton and Mr Stacey for their outstanding technical work on the show; they ensured that the audience were placed at the heart of the action from the first moments of the play. Thanks also to the directors, Miss Brewer and Miss Burn and to Mr Avdjian for his support and enthusiasm for this project.

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