A humorous rendition of Benedick from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by Gabriel (Lincoln Minster School, Lincolnshire) and a rousing speech by Toby (Ditcham Park School, Hampshire) playing the eponymous king from ‘Henry V’ were the winning performances at the grand final of this year’s Performing Shakespeare competition.
The runners-up were Sophie O’Hare (The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Middlesex) as Phoebe from ‘As You Like It’ and Ryan Obi (St Thomas More High School, Essex) as Shylock from ‘The Merchant of Venice’, while the Don Miller Audience Award went to April Davies and Luke Harry (Brynteg Comprehensive School, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan) as the ill-fated couple, Katherine and Petruchio from ‘Taming of the Shrew’.
This year’s competition had a record number of entries – 281 from 79 schools – and the grand final at Dartmouth House, Mayfair, the international headquarters of the English-Speaking Union, on 21 June 2019, saw fantastic performances from the 20 regional finalists.
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 competition encourages students between the ages of 11 and 14 to discover this joy for themselves, inviting them to perform a monologue or duologue from any of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as explaining why they have chosen the piece and how they seek to interpret it. This national competition helps them to develop their confidence, creativity and their ability for self-expression.
The eminent judging panel was hugely impressed by the young actors. Professor Carol Rutter, Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick commented that ‘while most of brain was engaged in listening and evaluating, the rest was saying to my mind’s ear, “This is the future. Doesn’t it look great!”.’