The darkening days of Winter saw the return of the eagerly anticipated MANCEP Shakespeare Festival. This collaborative enterprise is designed to showcase the talents of our young people in inner city schools and colleges, as they attempt the challenging task of distilling the essence of a Shakespeare play in forty minutes. Five high schools and two sixth form colleges took part this year, the event spread over two nights and playing to packed houses in the Ellis and Kennedy Theatre.

Mancep-Festival-Poster-2Squabbling lovers Benedick and Beatrice were much to the fore as St Peter’s High School opened proceedings with their interesting take on the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. A large cast of Year 10 students worked hard, and with great success, to generate the pace and energy required to squeeze the intricacies of the plot into their forty minute space. The ‘green-eyed monster’ of jealousy reared its ugly head again as St Matthew’s High School took to the stage and delivered one of the great tragedies Othello. A very young, and promising, cast coped admirably with the demands of the text, as the dastardly Iago ensnared and toppled the Moor, Othello. Xaverian Sixth Form College closed the first night, a very strong group enchanting the audience with Shakespeare’s last play The Tempest, delivering the comic lines to great effect and paying proper attention to the language in some of the more lyrical passages.

The second night got off to a spectacular start with Loreto High School’s highly innovative presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A gifted cast of Year 9 pupils delivered a stunningly accomplished performance of the play within a play within a play….This was followed by St Paul’s High School’s Romeo and Juliet, where the Year 10 pupils managed to engage well with some of the most familiar lines in English literature, as the tragic tale unfolded. Prospero’s staff was broken again in our second experience of The Tempest, Our Lady’s R.C. High School staging a very effective opening storm and more comedy with the disgruntled Caliban being introduced to intoxicating liquor, amongst other things. Loreto College rounded off the event with a splendid version of Macbeth. Maintaining the theatrical tradition of bad luck associated with the ‘Scottish play’ one of the cast was injured during rehearsal but this did not detract from the quality of the acting as Macbeth was brought low by a combination of witchcraft and his own ‘vaulting ambition.’

With over a hundred young people enjoying the experience of live theatre, and with two packed houses, the festival has shown again that the spirit of Shakespeare is alive and well in the inner city.