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Home > Competitions > Performing Shakespeare

‘To perform at the Swan Theatre in Stratford is a fantastic opportunity’

Performing Shakespeare

Key facts

  • What: Inclusive, accessible competition allowing students to perform Shakespeare and practise their oracy and drama skills
  • Age: Years 7, 8 and 9
  • Price: £45 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

In brief

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. Crucially, students also have to introduce their performance, building on their public speaking and engagement skills.

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 which also includes a professionally-led workshop.

‘Knowing how to express yourself is key to absolutely everything’

Hugh Dennis

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
  • Brings Key Stage 3 national curriculum Shakespeare content to life, helping students to engage more fully with the texts
  • Focus on oracy and public speaking skills via the introductory speech
  • Chance to see your students perform on stage
  • Supportive, friendly format which builds confidence, speaking ability and presentation skills
  • 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.

Hear from Carol Rutter, Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick, about why the introductory speech is so important, and how to prepare for it.

Find out more

Registration for the 2021-22 competition is now closed.

Initial heats run in-school in January and February, with the regional finals in May. The grand final is held in June.


If you have any questions or queries about the Performing Shakespeare Competition please email or call 020 7529 1565.

If you would like to be kept informed about our competitions and to receive free resources, please sign up for our newsletter here.

Additional Shakespeare resources

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has many excellent, free resources for students and teachers who want to access and unlock Shakespeare.

Visit the RSC education website to find out more.


From games to lesson plans, our bank of resources will help you get your class talking

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