A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a favourite with primary schools – whether it’s because of the comedy, the fairies, the donkey, the magical flower juice, the play within a play, or simply the fact that (unusually for Shakespeare) there is no body count, it has a dreamy appeal. However it’s a hugely complicated plot – well three different stories that all intertwine and have to be unravelled separately – with lovers and fairies which, frankly, are not always an easy sell to ten and eleven year olds. However this last fortnight has been an absolute joy – 186 actors aged 7-11 have blown us away.
Let’s start with Anson Primary School. This is one of our regular and favourite schools (not that we have favourites of course) and we were delighted to be back for the seventh year with ‘The Dream’ for the second time. Years 3&4 are the actors here and what a cracking job they did. The ever resourceful and irrepressible Year 4 teacher Mr Waters provided some wonderful props (check out the donkey head below – it’s big!), and with Year 3’s Mr Clargo as his technical sidekick, we had the added benefit of lights, stage mist and a glitter ball (very appropriate for the ‘Strictly’ entrance of the Mechanicals performing their play!).
However, putting aside all the lovely extras that are always on offer at this enchanting school, the success of the show was all down to the actors (all 100 of them) aged just 7-9. There were some wonderfully mature performances – after all it’s not easy to act being madly in love when you’ve only really ever been in love with your cat – and some incredibly funny performances too. Who knew that the four words “I am a Wall” could be so comical? And of course there was an enormous amount of courage on display – not least speaking out in a second language. One of the reasons we love this school is the diversity of cultures and ethnicities, not to mention the joie de vivre that abounds. At the end of the week, Richard and I were tasked with coming up with nominees for the FINDING THE WILL Rising Star Annie Award (you may remember hearing about this in a previous blog). Well we’ve done it, but it wasn’t easy – there were many contenders and we, like them, wait to hear who the winner is……………..
We were convinced that Year 3/4 at Anson had raised the bar so high, it could not possibly be met. How wrong we were………Years 5/6 at East Wichel Community Primary in Swindon, Wiltshire clearly had no intention of being outshone by a bunch of talented 7-9 year olds! It seemed impossible that we could have a second magical week but that is exactly what we had – amazing! The word that leapt out at us throughout the week was ‘confidence’. We heard it a lot at the beginning of the week in the context of it being something that a lot of the children lacked, however by the end of the week the context was entirely different! Forget the Shakespeare, the rise in confidence and self-esteem that we noticed on Friday, having only met the children on Monday, was heartwarming. Little voices getting bigger and most importantly, the knowledge that they can, will, and have every right to, be heard. Wonderful stuff! This was our third visit to East Wichel – a warm, welcoming, nurturing school that is rapidly climbing up the ranks of our favourite list (not that we have favourites of course, did I say that already?). There has been a change of Head Teacher since our last visit and so we are hugely grateful to Mrs Phillips for keeping the faith and honouring our booking – we look forward to coming back again next year! In the meantime to all our actors in Years 5/6, huge congratulations and, with the applause ringing in your ears, take another well deserved bow!
Finally, in other news, we are delighted to announce our new Patron – Michael Rosen. Michael agreed to join us at the beginning of March and we are absolutely thrilled to welcome him on board. A little bit of performing coming up for us next – ‘Naming The View‘ at the Mill Arts Centre in Banbury on 5 April and ‘The Third Witch From The Left‘ at the Swindon Fringe on 11 April. Always good to keep our hand in and remind ourselves what courage it takes to stand on stage and make your voice heard.
We will speak again soon – loudly and clearly – isn’t that right kids?!!