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Lockdown fails to shut down students’ Shakespeare shows

Written by on May 5, 2020

When the pandemic lockdown forced university students to cancel their open-air Shakespeare productions, they vowed the show must go online.

Second years on the University of Northampton’s Acting course are now in the thick of rehearsals, conducted via video conferencing apps, as they prepare to turn what would have been two live performances into a pair of 90-minute films.

They’ve eased themselves into the process by producing trailers for each film: As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.

Watch the As You Like It trailer here:

Watch the Much Ado About Nothing trailer here:

Sheffielder Elliot Murray, is one of the As You Like It cast of 17 students currently scattered across the United Kingdom, from Wolverhampton to Wales, Liverpool to Scotland, and in student digs in Northampton.

“It was a difficult thing to process when we’d spent months and months preparing for our end-of-year shows, only to see them cancelled,” said Elliot, who lives in Halfway.

“It was pretty heartbreaking, but the directors and other staff from the department were amazing, picking us up and setting us this challenge to do everything online.

“It took some time to get used to this new way of working, with script readthroughs and rehearsals via an app, but now it’s really easy as people have got into it.”

All being in the same boat has also helped the group to forge a real sense of togetherness, said Elliot: “I’m very proud to be part of this group. Isolation is difficult, but we’ve all been supporting each other.

“And of course, rehearsals have given us something to do – we’re all stuck inside, so to have five or six hours a day working on the film has been a great way to keep occupied and focussed.”

Associate Lecturers, Dan McGarry and Richard Keith, are the film’s directors and have been conducting the online rehearsals, which can last more than five hours a day.

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.”

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