Rehearsing in their form groups over the previous three days, a total of six plays were performed at the heart of the College in the Inner Quad which was filled with an audience of family, friends, teachers and fellow pupils.
As the opening scenes of Twelfth Night unfolded, the sun also appeared to take its seat upon the roof top, beaming brightly down onto the actors. The atmosphere was alive with energy as performances from the likes of Conor Dumbrell, who played the misled soul of Malvolio, delivered comic prowess and confident stage presence.
In The Taming of the Shrew, the evening’s second play, Tom Healy and Finty Donovan embodied the troubled lovers of Petruchio and Katharina respectively. The audience were in fits of laughter at the sight of Tom as he confidently mounted and rode a human-horse that carried him from scene to scene. To Tom’s credit, he kept in character throughout and rode just as though as if it were a real horse; he made it seem completely natural.
With the gradually fading light and the onset of a cooler breeze the evening’s first tragic play ensued; Julius Caesar. In this tale, infused with a fear of tyranny and betrayal, Harry Compton and Robert Holdsworth portrayed Caesar and his praetor, and eventual murderer, Brutus, respectively. When Caesar ignores the warnings from the Soothsayer, played by Josie Oldham, he is felled on the Ides of March. Excellent acting from all the cast ensured a performance with maturity.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream followed with the Inner Quad transported to “Fairy Land” under the light of the rising moon. In what is one of Shakespeare’s best-known love stories, this group truly captured that “The course of true love never did run smooth”. As the meddling fairies embroiled themselves in troublesome antics there were star performances from Alabama Jackson and James Mitchell in their roles as Puck and Bottom respectively.
One of the most memorable scenes of the festival was in the penultimate play, The Merchant of Venice. In the opening scenes Finn Clancy, playing Shylock, arrived with his fellow cast members mimicking the choreography of Michael Jackson in his Thriller music video. This modern take showed the kind of fresh approach that can still be made of Shakespeare’s classic work.
Finally, the evening shadows turned to darkness with the lighting focused on the performance area. In Macbeth, equally dark forces were at hand. From the suitably piercing screams of the Witches, played by Jazz Thomas, Flora Koska and Jack Troak to the beating drum of the Scots, this was a truly atmospheric occasion. Will Christopherson and Jessica Drydon, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, were impressive in their portrayal of the downfall of this megalomaniac pair.
The Shakespeare Festival ensures that all the Shell boys and girls engage with Shakespeare’s plays in their first year in the Senior School. Nicholas Beeby, Director of Drama, said, “The cast have been working hard on the plays in class since February and have come to the final three day workshop this week exceptionally well prepared. It has been a pleasure to work with them and the quality of their work is excellent.”
19 June 2013