“Authentic and high quality acting to be proud of. And just 18 months ago these children were in the infants!! Brilliant!” – so tweeted Mr Rai, the Head Teacher of Montpelier Primary, Ealing. Phew! Mr Rai had zoomed back from a Year 5 Residential Trip on the Isle of Wight to watch Year 4 perform ‘Romeo & Juliet’ because he’d heard good feedback during the week. No pressure then actors! You might only be aged 8 and 9 but you’ve got to impress! And they did!

Grown up themes for 8 & 9 year olds - Romeo & Juliet

Grown up themes for 8 & 9 year olds – Romeo & Juliet

As usual with a FINDING THE WILL Shakespeare Project Week, though we strive for ‘authentic and high quality acting’, it’s about the myriad of journeys that are made along the road to get anywhere near this. For one of our actors last week, it was her first week in the school with English as her second language! How fantastic that she found the courage to speak out loud on her own in front of 120 parents and governors on Friday afternoon. That was one huge expedition! There was of course lots of courage on display throughout the week. Some of our actors were pushed right out of their comfort zones but, as we explain to them at the beginning of the week, if you never step into unknown territory, you never grow. And besides, once you’re in that new place, you might find you like it! Judging by the number of hands that went up on Friday afternoon in answer to the question “Who feels more confident at this end of the week?”, I’d say a lot of children have just made their comfort zones larger.

R&J workshop Montpelier 2019

So bravery has played a huge part in reaching the “authentic and high quality” accolade from Mr Rai. But then notice the second part of his tweet “And just 18 months ago these children were infants.”  As adults, we know that time goes by in a flash, for us it’s breakfast every five minutes! But when you are 8, 18 months ago you were only 6 for goodness sake! And now we are asking you to act falling in love, fighting and killing your enemy and ultimately killing yourself. BIG GROWN UP THEMES!! As a company, we know this is delicate stuff and we take the responsibility very seriously. Part of the ‘journey’ for all our actors is understanding that whilst they must be real and ‘authentic’ IN the scenes, OUT of the scenes it is not real. We do not expect Romeo and Juliet to dance off into the sunlight and get married for instance!! This is still quite a hard concept to grasp – don’t let anyone tell you acting is ‘easy’. To this end we give them some help with appropriate, atmospheric music and, thanks to the wonderful Mr Almond (Head of Yr 4), some projected images on a screen.

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet’s Balcony

Juliet's Bedroom

Juliet’s Bedroom

The Capulet Tomb

The Capulet Tomb

At this point I must give a huge shout out to all the Year 4 staff. Warm, welcoming, dedicated and huge fun to work with, they brought an extra dimension to the week for us. We had no worries with props – all in hand at the beginning of the week and Mrs Brown’s backdrops below were a sensation – just zoom in and check out the detail!

Montague backdrop - Montpelier Primary, Ealing

Montague backdrop – Montpelier Primary, Ealing

Capulet backdrop - Montpelier Primary, Ealing

Capulet backdrop – Montpelier Primary, Ealing

All in all then, this was a terrific week that culminated in superb performances by all 90 actors (some of whom played two parts because we sadly lost some actors on Friday afternoon to a Borough Choir Concert Rehearsal – just to add to the drama!).  As I drove down the M4 on my way home I reflected on Mr Rai’s lovely speech at the end of the performance, echoed in his tweet. “Just 18 months ago these children were infants, see how they have grown!” Take another bow Year 4 – you deserve it!

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