The Felixstowe Academy cast of ‘Julius Caesar’ had a highly successful performance at DanceEast recently, as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival. It was a long and exhausting day, but thoroughly enjoyable and creatively fulfilling.
The day started with last minute rehearsals, and sound effect preparation, before we all set off on the train to Ipswich, carrying various strange items including broom handles, telephones and clipboards. Once at the Theatre, student Conor McGuire, our technician for the day, got started sharing the lighting and sound cues with the theatre technicians.
The technical rehearsal was a cue-to-cue, so the actors had to respond quickly to stopping and starting, repeating and adapting. Their professionalism and patience was impressive, and we finished in plenty of time for our dress rehearsal. Creeting St Mary Primary School were our audience for this rehearsal, and they thoroughly enjoyed it, and coped very well with our menacing, dark and haunting production. We also got to enjoy their enchanting version of ‘The Tempest’, with hand-made scenery and props, singing, dancing and really lovely characterisations.
The evening performance gave us the chance to relish the professional theatre experience in front of a public audience. Conor was able to run the lighting himself, and gave a flawless technical performance. The praise given by the appraiser to the cast on stage was very high, with particular mention given to the creative use of ensemble, highly imaginative interpretation, understanding and skill of the performers, and haunting use of music. Several audience members, and theatre staff, also approached Academy Subject Leader Mr Stone to say how strong the performance was and how creative the cast had been in their interpretation.
Miss Gordon, our director this year, worked closely with the cast, particularly Sasha Lawson-Frost and Chloe Stygall (student co-directors), to develop our production. Mr Stone was on hand to give some assistance in the latter stages, but the strength of our approach to SSF is the collaborative practice that we have built up over the years. Miss Gordon began directing as a student in our predecessor school, and has developed a very skilled and artistic approach to directing Shakespeare; a vision which was clearly shared by the cast.
Our final treat for the day was a performance of ‘Taming of the Shrew’, presented by a cast of students from The Odyssey Institute for Advanced and International Studies, who had travelled all the way from Arizona to take part. With traditional costumes, and a real blast of confidence, they romped through Shakespeare’s comedy, adding in some extra physical comedy of their own. Our casts really enjoyed chatting together about the process at the end of the evening.
We could not have been more proud of our students, with their professional approach, creative ideas and highly skilled performances. We look forward to working with many of them, and some new faces, when we take part in Shakespeare for Schools project again next year.
If you missed ‘Julius Caesar’, for whatever reason, look out for details of our in-school repeat performance, which will be booked in after the Festival embargo following the festival performance.