- What: Inclusive, accessible competition allowing students to perform Shakespeare and practise their oracy and drama skills
- Age: Years 7, 8 and 9
- Price: £25 per school; subsidies and fee waivers available for schools with high FSMs and EAL
- When: Heats begin in January and February, with the grand final in June
From ‘bedazzled’ to ‘scuffles’, Shakespeare was one of the greatest inventors of new words English has ever seen, revelling in the joy of spoken language and all it could achieve. The English-Speaking Union’s Performing Shakespeare Competition encourages Key Stage 3 and home-schooled pupils in England and Wales to discover this joy for themselves, inviting them to perform a monologue or duologue from any of Shakespeare’s texts, in whichever way they choose.
The competition, for students between the ages of 11 and 14, not only brings to life the Shakespeare study requirement in the national curriculum in an innovative and exciting way, it enables students to develop their creativity, their confidence and their ability to express themselves – important skills in the classroom and in the wider world.
Teachers are provided with the necessary resources to run a school competition and all students receive feedback. The best entries are sent forward to the area finals, which include an educational workshop and a performance of their chosen speech.
Winners from each region are invited to the annual grand final at a London venue which also includes a professionally-led workshop.
‘Knowing how to express yourself is key to absolutely everything’
Actor, comedian and Performing Shakespeare area judge
Why do it
- Prestigious competition across England and Wales is highly motivating for students and the school as a whole
- Chance to see your students perform in a London Theatre/Venue
- Brings Key Stage 3 national curriculum Shakespeare content to life, helping students to engage more fully with the texts
- Supportive, friendly format which builds confidence, speaking ability and presentation skills
- ESU-led workshop at area finals and theatre professional-led workshop at the grand final
- Option for students to perform individually or in pairs, meaning many students can have lead roles
- Boosts social mobility, broadening students’ horizons and opportunities
- Easy-to-follow judging guidelines for the school rounds
- Experienced ESU and professional judges at the area finals and Grand Final
- Regular hints, tips and resources to prepare your students for the competition
- Builds links and camaraderie with other schools both locally and nationally
students took part in the Performing Shakespeare competition 2017/2018
This is certainly one of the most inspiring projects I’ve worked on as a teacher. The students have all chosen speeches from Macbeth, which they have been studying this term. We had the whole year group acting in lessons, and the pupils were really engaged and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was amazed at the quality of some of the performances.
Ben A, teacher
See the competition in action and watch Toby’s joint-winning performance of a speech from Henry V, Act III, scene i.
April and Luke, left, from Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend won the Don Miller audience choice award for their performance as Katherine and Petruchio (Act II, scene i) in The Taming of the Shrew.
You can watch all the other performances from the final on our YouTube channel.
Find out more
Registration opens in June and closes in December each year. Initial heats run in-school in January and February, with the area finals in March/April. The grand final is held in a London venue in June.
The closing date for registration for the 2020 competition is 16 December.
If you have any questions or queries about the Performing Shakespeare Competition please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7529 1587.
Additional Shakespeare resources
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has many excellent, free resources for students and teachers who want to access and unlock Shakespeare.