National Children’s Theatre hosted a non-competitive Shakespeare Festival and the third annual SACEE Shakespeare Monologue Competition on 16-17 May.
There were entrants from six schools, including King David Linksfield Primary and High Schools, Willowmoore High, Ameerak Montessori, Poplar Academy and the African School of Excellence. Each actor was allowed to perform up to three different speeches to show their versatility.
Speeches from no less than eleven Shakespeare plays were performed, ranging from comedies like As You Like It to tragedies like Othello, from histories like King John to romances like Cymbeline, from well-known favourites like Romeo and Juliet to lesser known plays like Titus Andronicus and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The adjudicators were delighted by the enthusiasm of the performers and impressed by the dramatic impact of many of the speeches. Joshua Wilensky from King David Linksfield High received a Merit Award and was commended for the clarity of his performance of Sonnet 18 and the Epilogue from As You Like It and for the anguish he portrayed in Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow” meditation. A Merit Award was also awarded to Austin Sadie from Poplar Academy for his dramatic rendering of Lady Macbeth’s “Unsex me” speech, then Macbeth’s incredulous “Is this a dagger?” soliloquy and the manipulative King Claudius plotting with Laertes the murder of Hamlet.
Special Mentions included Jeremiah Rajgopaul from Willowmoore High, who convinced us, as Malcolm in Macbeth, that he really has no redeeming qualities, and as Cassius in Julius Caesar, arguing for the assassination of Mark Antony, and Nikhita Herman from Poplar Academy, who was persuasive in Mark Antony’s funeral oration, imperious as Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, threatening to disown his daughter, and wonderfully mad and touching in Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene.
The runners up were Janique Maduray and Zainaaz Hansa from Willowmoore High Janique was a passionate and evil Tamora in Titus Andronicus and a hapless Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Zainaaz played the foolish love-struck Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a brooding Macbeth in his “If it were done” soliloquy.
The winners were Arthur Muwurami from the African School of Excellence and Samuel Hertz from King David Linksfield Primary School. Arthur was an utterly convincing drunken Porter in Macbeth, haranguing the audience as he fixed us with his piercing gaze. Sam played a rather nasty Demetrius and then a hilariously grieving Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as an innocent and plaintive Prince Arthur in King John.
The monologues were followed by the witches’ scene from Macbeth performed by students of King David Linksfield. Then Rosalind confronted Phebe and Silvius in As You Like It performed by Willowmoore High. National Children’s Theatre Shakespeare Club performed the meeting of Octavius, Mark Antony and Lepidus in Antony and Cleopatra and then Bottom demanding to play all the Pyramus and Thisbe roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The evening closed with King Edward VII School Old Boys portraying the four foresworn-in-love nobles in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
The Shakespeare Club is open to all students from Grade 7 up and meets every Saturday afternoon from 14:30 – 16:30 at National Children’s Theatre, under the guidance of Dr Rohan Quince, who says, “Thank you to National Children’s Theatre and the South African Council for English Education for promoting Shakespeare!”