Shakespeare competition looking for greater state-school participation

Hebe Parrot, of Ditcham Park School, Ditcham, near Petersfield and Yana Preobrazhenskaya and Sofya Boeuleva, of St Catherine's School, Bramley, through to the national grand final
Hebe Parrot, of Ditcham Park School, Ditcham, near Petersfield and Yana Preobrazhenskaya and Sofya Boeuleva, of St Catherine's School, Bramley, through to the national grand final
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The West Sussex branch of the English Speaking Union is keen to attract more state schools to next year’s ESU Performing Shakespeare Competition.

Fine performances were enjoyed by the judges at this year’s regional final in the Bishop’s Palace in Chichester.

And ESU spokesman Anthony Davies said he was delighted with the way things went. But already he is thinking ahead to widening the reach for next year.

“It went very well. I think the setting was very conducive to good performances, and I thought it was a very relaxed room for them to work it. I was pleased with the standard. You have to bear in mind they are really quite young, 11, 12, 13.

“But I would like to attract more state schools into it for next year. I want to widen the net. I appreciate with Ofsted and other pressures upon them, it is not necessarily easy for state schools to take on extra work, as this would be. But I think the rewards are worth it.

“It is a question of trying to persuade the state schools to take part. At the moment, we have got an imbalance of private schools over state schools, and it is not for want of trying. The private schools really do appreciate the opportunity. It is a matter of convincing the state schools as well.”

Anthony pledged to tailor his emails/invitations more specifically to state schools’ needs. He will be approaching them in September, but in the meantime, any schools wishing to discuss the competition should get in touch with him on noredown2@yahoo.co.uk.

At the regional finals in Chichester, the judges – actors Hugh Dennis and Abigail Cruttenden and Sussex Newspapers group arts editor Phil Hewitt – sent Hebe Parrot, of Ditcham Park School, Ditcham, near Petersfield and Yana Preobrazhenskaya and Sofya Boeuleva, of St Catherine's School, Bramley, through to the national grand final at the Gielgud Theatre, London on March 21.

Commendations were awarded to Lennon Pringle, of Littlegreen School, Compton, and Danika Joachim-Baggott and William Mckechnie, of Ditcham Park School.

Anthony said: “I think the students get confidence from it. They get a better understanding of Shakespeare and an understanding that Shakespeare isn’t so daunting. They can see that it is a reflection of feelings and emotions and life and experiences.

“And they also get confidence, the ability to express themselves better. For many of them, performing in public may be the first time they have done that kind of thing, and that is beneficial to them, especially when they go through to the Gielgud Theatre in London when they are really so enthusiastic and grateful for having had the opportunity to perform on a London stage.”

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