Is this a nine-year-old I see before me performing Shakespeare?
It certainly was, and what a truly impressive and outstanding performance from all the young people involved in the Shakespeare Schools Festival at Burnley Mechanics Theatre.
All too often people are ready to label Shakespeare as “boring” but nothing could be further from the truth.
His plays cover every human emotion and the themes, including everything from war, racism and hatred to love, family ties, friendship and falling in love, are still relevant today.
So for me to see schoolchildren performing the work of the Bard in such a fresh and original way was wonderful.
The festival is run by a charity called the Shakespeare Schools Foundation, and exists to encourage children to be more confident in themselves.
It is the world’s largest youth drama festival and every year involves thousands of children from across the UK.
In 2016 the festival worked with 1,093 school and reached a milestone of working with 250,000 participants since it was launched in 2000.
Some of the students even performed for the Queen to celebrate her 90th birthday and also at Number 10 Downing Street.
And the performance in Burnley was definitely fit for royalty.
Colne’s Lord Street Primary School’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an absolute hoot. The pupils’ performed with perfect comic timing from start to finish and had the audience in stitches with their interpretation of the plays about star crossed lovers, wrong identities and love potions.
And it was clear to see the children were enjoying themselves as they were full of confidence and passion.
The Tempest was beautifully performed by children from St Stephen’s CE Primary, Burnley. Another tale of mistaken identity with a couple of murderous plots thrown in around the usurped duke Propsero, the students were confident and embraced the limelight.
Brierfield’s Pendle Primary Academy were tasked with staging Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays. The cast were word perfect and while they rushed through the dialogue slightly they gave an admirable performance, tackling the sword fighting and murder scenes with real gusto.
And performing arts students from Burnley College pulled off a real coup with a stunning performance of Macbeth. It was difficult to believe that this cast of teens were not professional actors.
It was an almost faultless interpretation that many professional thespians would envy.