Anyone looking for the perfect antidote to the cold, wet November weather, or an escape from ruminations on Brexit and President Trump, needed to look no further than Loreto’s Ellis and Kennedy theatre for two nights in deepest autumn, the venue for the MANCEP Shakespeare Festival. This annual event sees local Catholic high schools and sixth form colleges grappling with the task of condensing the intricacies of a Shakespearean plot into a forty-minute presentation. Now in its fifth year this event never fails to bring in the crowds and this year was no exception as the youngsters involved played to packed houses of enthusiastic family members and friends.

IMG_4331St Peter’s High School had the unenviable task of starting proceedings on the opening night, a large cast of Year 9 pupils delivering their version of Twelfth Night with gusto and energy. St Paul’s High School’s Year 10 GCSE Drama group worked hard to negotiate the complexities of The Comedy of Errors, having some success with their handling of the language. The star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet made their appearance in Our Lady’s High School’s take on the famous love story, featuring a moving performance from the two principals and a very effective death scene by Mercutio. Loreto College finished off the first night with an hilarious adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Oceana Cage Nzene and James Smart extracted every possible drop of humour from the play within a play format.

The second night opened with the squabbling Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, presented by The Barlow’s Year 10 GCSE Drama students, and continued with Xaverian’s creative interpretation of Macbeth, their version of the Scottish play distinguished by Frances Eva’s dastardly and tragic Macbeth, and Ella Kirk’s spectacular playing of Lady Macbeth’s hand wringing scene. The festival was brought to a close in fine style by more argumentative lovers as Loreto High School’s Year 9 group delivered The Taming of the Shrew.

During the intervals on both nights our guests were entertained in fine style in the cafeteria by various ensembles of Loreto musicians, including the Wind Ensemble, the Big Band, the String Orchestra and the latest addition to our musical line-ups, the Opera Chorus. Special mention should also be made of technicians Tony Fennell and Tom Leonard, working tirelessly as ever to meet the varied requests of five different productions. The Festival was a fitting way to celebrate the life of the Bard on the 400th anniversary of his death in 1616.