Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting to the Bottom of the Bard

New press release ...
"There’s magic in the air. After a hugely successful UK and international tour of Macbeth, Shakespeare 4 Kidz hit the road again this autumn with a revival of their acclaimed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Fairies and fun, royalty and romance, magic and misunderstandings: A Midsummer Night’s Dream has them all and more. So, little wonder this enchanting play is one of the most popular ever written. The Bard’s comedy gets a magical transformation from S4K, whose musical version has long been a must-see for school parties and family groups.

This child-friendly version of the play launches its national tour at the Palace Theatre in Mansfield on Tuesday September 14. It will play two shows a day until Friday September 17 before taking off round the country until the end of November. A second leg of the tour begins after Christmas.

A galaxy of S4K celebrity fans have already sent good luck messages for the show.

Dame Judi Dench: (Titania at the Rose in Kingston this year): “I am happy to support any approach that helps children to understand Shakespeare’s plays and to realise that they are about emotions that we all share – love, jealousy, anger etc – all of which can be found in The Dream!”

Dame Helen Mirren: “Good wishes to Shakespeare 4 Kidz. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the Avatar of Shakespeare, with something to be enjoyed by all age groups, a great message and lots of fun and fantasy. Enjoy!”

Victoria Wood: “Good luck, stay cool – there’s nothing worse than a nervous Bottom!”

Graham Norton: “Have a wonderful show. Good Puck to you all!”

Jason Donovan: “It is great for kids to appreciate at an early age great writing and none has a better grasp of the English language than Shakespeare himself. Enjoy the journey kids!”

Barbara Windsor: “To all the Shakespeare 4 Kidz, I would like to wish you lots of luck with your A Midsummer Night's Dream tour. What a wonderful way to introduce Shakespeare to a younger audience. To all of you who are performing, and to all who are watching, ENJOY! Lots of love Barbara Windsor x”

Corrie’s Archie Shuttleworth Roy Hudd, whose Bottom was a big hit in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, even wrote S4K a special good luck poem.

And Loose Woman/Calendar Girl Lynda Bellingham remembers the fun she had when she appeared in the play.

“Amazingly my first professional role was Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Pendley Shakespeare Festival in Tring, Herts. It was an open air theatre and I had to run like the wind down a leafy glade arriving centre stage to say "Over hill over dale I do wander everywhere” etc. My first ever crit in the local paper said that if I never made it as an actress I could always try my hand in the 100 metres as I was so fast!”

The Dream is one of six S4K titles, following on from the 2009/10 national and international hit tour of Macbeth.

With a script and songbook by Julian Chenery and Matt Gimblett, and assistance from Mr Shakespeare, every S4K show uses the whole Shakespearean plot but uses only the most famous original lines and slots them into modern language so that everyone – even the youngest primary school children – can understand.

Adults in the audience who have previously been baffled by the Bard will find that they can at last understand what it is all about!

There are also songs, dances and lots of spellbinding effects as the fairies create a world of wonder in the woods.

Teachers, parents, pupils and critics are unanimous in their praise for S4K shows. Here are some of the things they said about Macbeth.

“My class and I caught a production of Macbeth…it was fantastic…a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare,” wrote a teacher from Northampton.

“I never thought Shakespeare cold be so interesting,” agreed a parent from Leicester.

“My favourite thing that’s happened this term,” said a 10 year old from York.

“My 10 year old daughter, who had already seen the afternoon performance with her school, couldn’t wait to go back for a second showing in the evening. That’s high praise indeed from someone who normally prefers Hannah Montana,” said a critic from Barnstaple.

Tyler in a Year 7 class in Truro gave it five out of five; Matthew in Year 6 in Leeds said it would stay in his memory for ever and Bethany, a Year 6 from Buxton, said: “The worst part was the interval!”

S4K promise a Dream show for all the family. So, why not fly away for some fun with the fairies!

A complete list of tour dates is available on Most venues offer two shows a day (morning and matinee).

S4K also offers classroom workshops led by professional actors/teachers plus, new for this year, Day Dream. This is a one-day cross-curricular experience in which up to 80 pupils can be involved. Following fun workshop sessions the participants stage their own mini version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for family at friends at the end of the day.
I've been invited to the Manchester show and will report back. I've previously reviewed Macbeth here.

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