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Students salvage Shakespeare shows after pandemic wrecks their performance plans

Date 11.06.2020

Students scattered across the United Kingdom – and Finland – have risen above the challenges of lockdown to produce two Shakespeare plays.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant second years on the Acting course at the University of Northampton were forced to cancel their summer open-air Shakespeare productions of As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.

But they vowed the show must go on, spent six weeks rehearsing via video conference apps and have now released a pair of 90-minute Shakespeare In Lockdown films – watch them below.

Thirty four students took part in the films, and were based far and wide, from Wolverhampton to Wales, Liverpool to Scotland, and Sheffield to student digs in Northampton.

Ida Sade is from Finland, and had initially been rehearsing from her shared student house in Northampton, before flying home in the latter stages of the project. She played the character of Verges, in Much Ado About Nothing.

Ida said: “At first, I was afraid our whole third term would be cancelled completely. Our only module in the third term was working with a director on a Shakespeare play, and I know we were all looking forward to it.

“But when it became apparent that we would adapt it to the lockdown regulations, I wasn’t particularly defeated because I knew it was necessary, and we would still get the best possible experience of this module, just from a distance learning perspective.”

She added: “I feel very proud of the film. I’m delighted that we got to create something so different and innovative during these strange and uncertain times, and that we were still able to continue our actor training.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. The cast was an absolute pleasure to work with. I think we all realised that it was going to take a group effort to make this a good experience for everyone, and we truly didn’t have any problems at all.

“I think it did bring us all closer together, and we’re all looking forward to being able to work together in a shared space again.”

Associate Lecturers, Dan McGarry and Richard Keith, were the films’ directors, conducting the online rehearsals, which could last more than five hours a day.

Richard said: “I thought the project went very well – it was very enjoyable despite the many and varied challenges. It was great to do something so innovative and to feel that we could still be creative in such strange times.

“I was impressed by the resilience and attitude of the students. Such dedication and self-reliance will serve them well when they graduate into the profession.

“We’re all proud of the final result. But more than the final film, I’m proud of the cast, of how they developed their skills as actors and their ability to perform even in such challenging circumstances.”

Dan said: “Some of the students were at first apprehensive, but as we have worked they have seen that this is not only possible, but an opportunity to work in a way that hasn’t been done before.

“This really is a chance to triumph over adversity, make something beautiful, give people hope and look back on fondly. When their grandchildren ask them what they did during the lockdown – they can show them this.”