Six schools in the region have been selected to perform sections of the Scottish tragedy,Macbeth, with three schools together performing the whole play each night.
Billed as a non-competitive, open-access, multi-disciplinary Shakespeare performance festival for Australian students in Years 7–10, the event runs over two nights, with the play adapted into three 30-minute chunks.
Leading up to the festival, Bell Shakespeare artists—Chris Tomkinson, Matt Edgerton and Kerreen Ely-Harper—worked with students and mentored teachers through guided rehearsals and a Directors’ Weekend.
Schools were encouraged to take a cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary approach to staging the plays, involving music, dance, media arts and design.
And so the six chosen schools—Wanniassa School Enrichment Program, Canberra Grammar School, St Edmund's College, St Francis Xavier College, Campbell High School and Batemans Bay High School—have done exactly that.
Batemans Bay has incorporated circus skills, Campbell High has used graphic novels as a starting point, St Edmund's decided to go with a post-apocalyptic theme,St Francis Xavier College has taken a political approach, Wanniassa has been working with the Wardaman people of the Northern Territory and Canberra Grammar has got physical.
‘This Festival is about empowering young people through Shakespeare; giving them the chance to own these stories and imagine them anew and perform on a professional stage, guided by this country’s most experienced Shakespeare artists,’ said Bell Shakespeare’s Head of Education, Joanna Erskine.
‘It’s also about mentoring teachers and developing their skills as directors and arts champions.’
Students were encouraged to participate in all aspects of performance including acting, design, stage management, music and sound design and publicity, to involve as many students as possible.
Bruce Carmichael, Director of Canberra Theatre Centre, said, ‘This is the inaugural incarnation of the Bell Shakespeare Schools Festival and we’re so pleased that our city has been chosen as the first of hopefully many more Festivals in the future.’
There are other non-competitive Shakespeare festivals for schools around the world; however, Australia has yet to have one of its own on a national scale.
‘This is something we have been planning for quite some time, and we are very excited to bring the first festival to the nation’s capital, with the team at Canberra Theatre Centre. We think this is the start of something big,’ said Erskine.
Bell Shakespeare Schools Festival will be held at the Canberra Theatre Centre on November 4 (Wanniassa, Canberra Grammar, St Edmund's) and November 6 (St Francis Xavier, Campbell High School and Bateman's Bay High School.) Tickets from $15.canberratheatrecentre.com.au