Even those schools back in business will not be welcoming fond parents and the wider community to their end-of-term entertainments this year.
But in the best lockdown spirit, many have been emulating the professionals with ingenious, not so say ambitious, use of technology to fill the pandemic gap.
My own school hosted a YouTube concert last night, King’s Canterbury have done Tallis in forty parts, and now here’s Trinity with the best bits of the Bard; forty scenes and forty-plus players in a colourful tapestry of comedy and tragedy, all of it filmed in isolation and edited by Chris Chambers of the Drama Department.
The evening is bookended by two set-pieces – Muse of Fire and Seven Ages – performed by a talented, diverse ensemble from the Trinity community, staff and students united in Shakespeare.
To begin, a generous half-hour in the woods near Athens – real forest glades and suburban gardens much in evidence, with the junior Mechanicals followed by Alexander Moloney‘s excellent Merry Wanderer and Aidan McAllan’s Oberon perched in a convenient tree. Clever casting and cross dressing find Elaine Jones and Alexandra Persinaru playing all four lovers. More gender swapping enables Mr Petty [like Oliver Chris at the Bridge last year] to enjoy the favours of the ass Bottom [Miss Boorman]. And the play climaxes, of course, with a glorious Pyramus and Thisbe: witty subtitles, Globe theatre wallpaper, Mr Ryan’s Thisbe whispering through a stair-gate and some neatly integrated pre-Covid footage.
Elsewhere in the canon, Francis Oben makes an impressive Harry, later Henry V, Anjali Patel-Ramcharran a powerful Portia soliloquising in Julius Caesar. From Twelfth Night we enjoy Isaac Lewsey’s Malvolio, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick’s bewildered Viola, and a lovely setting, specially composed, of O Mistress Mine from Persinaru’s Feste.
Another song to end Part One, a hilarious re-working of Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Barlow and Chambers: topical, witty, crisply delivered and cleverly shot, with washing lines, sheds and family members all getting in on the act.
Hordes of witches for the Scottish play, and a thoughtful Lady M from Amelia English, despite the domestic décor [didn’t work for the RSC, either]. A sylvan setting and pacey dialogue [deftly edited] for Ethan Thorne’s Benedick and Rosie Chambers’ Beatrice in Much Ado..., a French Princess [Miss Tolleret] from Henry V, and two blokes from the German department having great fun with the balcony scene from R&J.
Many more dramatic delights on offer here – I’ve not mentioned Jacques’ full English Justice, Barney Sayburn’s innocent Iago, or Mr Ryan’s Lear, with tiara and sharpie. But for me, the most memorable scenes were those with Will Hardy’s Dane. Performance, staging and filming combined to perfection in his shadowy meeting with his father’s ghost [Mr Young], and a superbly crafted soliloquy in the skeleton of a wooden lean-to Elsinore.