South West Wales

Shakespeare festival returns to Pembrokeshire roots

The UK's largest youth drama project, which started life in Pembrokeshire a decade ago, is returning to its roots.

Pupils from eight schools will perform half-hour adaptations of some of Shakespeare's plays at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival now involves more than 600 schools a year.

Patrons include dramatist Sir Tom Stoppard, author Philip Pullman and Oscar winners Dame Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey.

It started in 2000 when eight schools in Pembrokeshire performed abridged half-hour scripts made for the S4C and BBC Wales series, Shakespeare - The Animated Tales.

The festival now sees professional actors and students working together across the UK and it has also spread overseas to South Africa and Australia.

Nick Connerton, the festival's co-ordinator in Wales, said it gave pupils from all backgrounds and ability the chance to perform plays in their local theatres and allowed teachers to train as directors.

Confidence boost

"It's amazing the difference it makes to students who usually come into the project hating Shakespeare," he said.

"They at least leave with an understanding of the language and an appreciation of the stories which are some of the most universal tales that have ever been written.

"It's a brilliant confidence boost - we try and get all different types of schools working together on one performance night."

Four schools a day have taken part in Shakespeare workshops staged by the National Youth Theatre of Wales during this year's event.

Taking part in the festival for the first time is Portfield School in Haverfordwest which caters for young people with special education needs.

The will be giving their own twist to A Midsummer's Night Dream.

The plays are being performed at the Torch Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Also performing are pupils from the two Haverfordwest secondary schools, Sir Thomas Picton and Tasker Milward, and the secondary schools from Tenby, Milford Haven and Pembroke.

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