Three plays and a piece of music: Shakespeare for kids part 2

Macbeth, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, with a piece of original music thrown in. You can’t complain at that for an evening of entertainment by primary school kids. I know I’ve gone on about it the last few days, but really, you should have been there!

Clever, witty, hilarious, contemporary and complex are just a few words to describe the plays, which were adapted from Shakespeare’s originals to contain enough references to the present day, while also maintaining their distinct Shakespearean air. They were complete with references to Brexit and Trump (quite appropriately so, as most our kids at Preston Street are outraged by both), Philip Hammond, Sainsbury’s and Deliveroo. Further, there was a talking tree who was delivering some of Shakespeare’s famous speeches…. but backwards: “Be to, or not be to. Question, that is the.” And also a spoken definition of the word eponymous. There was a yellow card given to an “overacting” Polonius, who was not in fact dead, a Puck that explained Shakespeare speak for “he fancies her”, and a Lady Macbeth who gave absolutely no space for Macbeth to spout out “those endless soliloquies that Shakespeare has ( him) spouting off at any given opportunity.” That’s right, no famous speeches by Macbeth, cause his Mrs would not allow it.

What an achievement it was for our kids, and what a joy for us parents to watch. They all knew their lines. I mean, just that in itself is impressive! I struggled learning the first stanza of lady of Shalott off by heart for an audition, and I was already in high school. So I have huge respect for all those 10-12 year olds who learned a multitude of lines, and spoke them with feeling. They were professional, they were believable, and they were having fun!

I managed to see both performances of the day and loved them both.

My lady Macbeth was fierce and horrid, just as she should be. Her Macbeth was calm and gullible, and easily draggable here and there, and the energy between them was flowing. The witches were a team that sparked off each other, led by the boy who played the first witch, who was just in character the whole time. His interpretation of first witch included a hunch back and a super husky but posh voice. The play ended with the final battle scene, Macbeth finally losing his own life, and the witches standing at the back eating pop corn and sipping juice (a detail thought up only that day, by the fourth witch himself).

It was super. And I simply don’t know how Tim Wilcock did it, in such a short time. He clearly got those kids to fall in love with their roles, and enjoy playing them.

In his words, and I do agree wholeheartedly, “learning to inhabit a character and be a part of a team telling a story is a valuable life skill. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun!”

I met Tim yesterday and had a brief chat with him. He seems really passionate about bringing the best out in young actors, and the result is telling of the fact that he is exceptionally good at it too! He runs a community theatre group called Shakespeare at Traquair . They put on outdoor Shakespeare shows at Traquair House, near Peebles. Their next production is Love’s Labour Lost, which is on at the end of May/ beginning of June. I’m going!

“All she needed, was an audience”, Tim said about Aliyah. He told my husband that she had flourished the last three days, while performing for an audience. I really, really liked that. Because, after all, what is acting, what is theatre, without an audience?