Shakespeare Schools Festival under way

Westerford High School performed their version of The Tempest at the Shakespeare Schools Festival SA that opened last week at the D6 Theatre. The first leg of the festival ends on Saturday May 14. The second leg will be at the Baxter theatre in August. PICTURE: Mike Leresche

The 12th Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSFSA) started at the D6 Theatre (formerly the Fugard Theatre) in the Cape Town city centre on Friday May 6.

The event will be presented until Thursday September 22 across several provinces. The first leg at the D6, ending on Saturday May 14, will be followed by a season at the Baxter theatre from Wednesday August 10 to Saturday August 20. After that, there will be festival runs in George, Johannesburg and Durban.

Since 2009, the SSFSA has showcased 518 Shakespeare plays across the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, working with 10 866 pupils from 597 schools.

Joining in this year at the D6 Theatre will be Parel Vallei High School, Parklands College, Fish Hoek Primary School, Wynberg Boys’ Acting Association, Pioneer School for the visually impaired, Hermanus High School, Curro Century City High, South Peninsula High School, Westerford High School, Darul Arqam Islamic High School, Wynberg Boys’ Junior School, Rhenish Girls’ High School, Leiden Secondary School and Athlone High School.

At the Baxter theatre in August, the following schools will be performing: Westlake Primary School, Greenfield Girls’ Primary, Worcester Gymnasium, Herschel Girls’ School, Trinity Classical Christian School, Curro Somerset West Primary School, De La Bat School for the Deaf, Blouberg International School, Hout Bay International School, Christel House South Africa, Generation Sandown Middle School, Generation Sandown High School, Hoërskool Swartland, The Settlers High School, The Settlers Secondary School, Queen’s Park High School and Hoërskool Strand.

The festival promotes life skills, literacy, classic literature and live theatre.

The SSFSA is also fully inclusive as it welcomes pupils with different abilities and physical challenges, such as the De La Bat School for the Deaf, in Worcester, that participates using South African Sign Language. Like The Pioneer School for the blind, also in Worcester, and all participants, they too deliver ground-breaking and moving renditions of the play of their choice.

Schools present innovative, abridged versions of a Shakespeare play, approximately 30 to 45 minutes long.

Casts are encouraged to re-imagine, adapt and “turn the play on its head” by taking the themes of the play and making it relatable to themselves and their peers. SSFSA assists with scripts, acting and directing tips, and runs a number of educational programmes alongside each leg of the festival to benefit teachers, emerging pupil-directors and young actors.

The SSFSA is a highlight on the cultural calendars of school drama groups and youth cultural clubs, and being able to hold the event after stressful lockdowns and the closure of some theatre venues in South Africa is exciting for the young people taking part.

“Live performances mean the world to enthusiastic school-going Shakespeareans who benefit enormously from being able to perform onstage in front of a live audience and connect in person with other learners from other schools and diverse different backgrounds. It’s a great morale booster,” said SSFSA founder Kseniya Filinova-Bruton.

Tickets are R55 through Quicket for the D6 Theatre, and cost from R85 via Webtickets for the Baxter. Visit www.ssfsa.co.za for more information.

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