FOR many years the Crompton House Drama Department has taken part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival.
Pupils have performed at many theatres in Greater Manchester including the Oldham Coliseum, the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry, Bolton Octagon and the Gracie Fields Theatre at Rochdale.
But until earlier this month youngsters had never trod the boards at Shaw Playhouse 2.
In past years only one play per venue had been permitted.
However, that has now changed as drama teachers, Mrs Lyndsey Hammond and Mrs Bev Bacon decided to stage the school’s own festival, producing two classic Shakespeare plays.
So, while Years 8 and 9 pupils performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the older pupils performed Romeo and Juliet.
And to give Sixth Formers more experience of theatre craft, five students directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
As a result, Shaw Playhouse 2 was packed while the Year 8 and 9 pupils acted with great confidence and attention to detail.
For many of the actors this was their third Crompton House show but for all of them it was their first Shakespeare play.
Although the script was cut down to about 40 minutes, the language and length of the speeches were quite a challenge, yet all remembered their lines perfectly.
The ‘mechanicals’ were funny, and the lovers suitably dreamy.
The directors – Lizzy Wilson, Will Main, Hannah Williams, Jack Lawless and Emily Prophet – were really impressed with the pupils.
Lizzy said: “I never knew why Miss Hammond got so stressed when she was directing.
“I know now! I was more nervous when the pupils went on than I ever was when I was performing!”
Jack Lawless, who wants to be a primary teacher said:” I really enjoyed seeing the pupils grow in confidence as the rehearsals went on. And they had so many great ideas.”
Charlotte Wiener, Year 8, who played the part of Hippolyta, said: “It was good being directed by Sixth Formers.
“I felt they could understand us better, and they gave us confidence to make our own suggestions.”
Romeo and Juliet was directed by Mrs Hammond and Mrs Bacon and despite being about 45 minutes, allowed the cast to tell the story brilliantly.
Jake Gibbons and Olivia Pilch took the main parts and were wonderfully believable.
Jake has been in school productions from a very young age, but for Olivia playing Juliet was her first time on the stage.
“I’d studied GCSE Drama and thought I’d give it a go,” she explained.
“Lots of us auditioned for the part and I was thrilled that I was given the role of Juliet.
“I was a bundle of nerves before going on the stage for my first line. But then I gained more confidence and really enjoyed it.
“My parents and grandparents were in the audience and I don’t think they could believe what I was doing. I really loved it!”
Aurooj Iltaf, who played the part of Mercutio, said: “I’ve been in a number of plays at Crompton House, and I what I really enjoyed was how we could all put ideas into the mix.
“Mrs Hammond wanted it to have a modern day setting so we used our phones and made the gangs more laddish.”
Ruby Holland was one of the youngest in Romeo and Juliet and played the part of a kinsman.
She said: “Working with the Sixth Formers was quite daunting at the start, but we soon began working together as a group and I really enjoyed the rehearsals.”
Mr Karl Newell, headteacher, said: “The standard of drama at Crompton House is remarkably high, and by pupils starting their acting from Year 7, they mature into confident actors from an early age.
“It’s no wonder the school has some of the best A Level Drama results in the country.”