- 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 November, with the Grand Final in June
- How: Sign up here! Registration deadline is Friday, 7 October 2022
From ‘bedazzled’ to ‘scuffles’, William Shakespeare was one of the greatest inventors of new words that the English language 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 and express this excitement (another Shakespearean coinage) for themselves, inviting them to perform a monologue or duologue from any of Shakespeare’s texts in whichever way they choose. Crucially, students must also introduce their performance, thereby enhancing their oracy, public speaking and engagement skills.
The competition not only brings to life the Shakespeare study requirement in the curriculum in an innovative and exciting way, but it also enables students to develop their creativity, their confidence, and their ability to express themselves – valuable skills in the classroom as well as the wider world.
Equipped with all the information and resources they need, schools host the first round internally in schools in November – December. Teachers will select their best entries to go through to the Branch Finals, which take place in February – March. Thereafter, Regional Finals are held in May, including a one-hour acting workshop delivered by a professional.
One performance from each Regional Final will progress to the Grand Final in June, which will be held at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England. All teachers of students who reach this final showcase will receive a free, one-hour CPD session delivered by Shakespeare’s Globe. The Grand Final features prizes for the winner and runner-up, as well as the Don Miller Audience Choice Award.
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’
Actor, comedian and Performing Shakespeare area judge
Why do it
- Encourages confidence, speaking ability, and presentation skills
- Boosts social mobility, broadening students’ horizons and opportunities
- Prestigious nationwide (England and Wales) competition, 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
- Professional-led theatrical workshop at the Grand Final
- Option for students to perform individually or in pairs, meaning many students can have lead roles
- 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
Sign-ups for the 2022-23 competition are now open! Registration deadline is Friday, 7 October 2022.
Sign up for our schools’ newsletter to keep up-to-date and to receive free resources.
Initial heats run in-school in January and February, with the Regional Finals in May. The Grand Final is held in June. Submit your school now to avoid disappointment!
If you have any questions or queries about the Performing Shakespeare competition please email email@example.com 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.