PUPILS from St Malachy’s College have this week celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright William Shakespeare by taking part in a very special drama project on the Bard’s work.
Almost thirty boys from Years Eight and Nine of the North Belfast school were chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to produce a one-week performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Grand Opera House in conjunction with the local amateur production company, the Belvoir Players.
The Dream 16 project, which has toured across the UK in 12 different cities, arrived in Belfast on Tuesday and will run to Saturday with the Belvoir Players as the Mechanicals and the local St Malachy’s playing Titania’s Fairy Train.
The Creative Learning department of the Lyric Theatre has been rehearsing with Sarah McLoughlin and Dr Bailie from St Malachy’s since January for the unique event.
Niki Doherty, Creative Learning Coordinator at the Lyric Theatre, who has been training the St Malachy’s boys at lunchtime and after-school, said the project is a unique opportunity for the local pupils.
“The RSC decided they really wanted to celebrate and commemorate the legacy of his work and do something quite special,” she explained.
“They chose 12 different cities across England, Scotland, Wales and here in Northern Ireland with a local amateur company to play one group of characters and a group of local schoolchildren to play the other group of characters.
The boys have been rehearsing original songs, dance routines and scenes from the play and have also had regular visits from members of the RSC to prepare them for the performance.
“We’ve been helping the boys with their rehearsals in the past few months and it’s a really exciting opportunity for them to see how professional theatre works.”
The famous play explains the story of how on a midsummer’s night, four young lovers find themselves wrapped in the dream-like embrace of an enchanted forest where spirits lurk and fairies rule.
A feud occurs between the Fairy King and Queen with their paths crossed by Bottom and Quince. Meanwhile, their friends present play within a play, with chief mischief-maker Puck on hand to ensure that the course of true love is anything but smooth with games of fantasy, love and dreams featuring heavily in one of Shakespeare’s most beguiling works.
Alongside a number of well-known professional actors, the St Malachy’s boys will rotate each night with each group of pupils performing at least twice throughout the duration of the performance.
Niki Doherty says she has been really pleased with how the pupils have committed themselves fully from the beginning and impressed with their development of new theatre skills.
“The boys have really loved it and have been committed from the beginning,” she said.
“The performance involves singing, dancing and acting so it is a real all-round performance which has challenged them in so many ways.
“They’ve given up so much of their time and really progressed in terms of learning and developing new skills and learning how to put it all together alongside the professionals.
“The young boys have bought into the hard work and have really done St Malachy’s proud.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and the boys will really learn the world of professionally theatre and are taking it seriously,” she added.
An unforgettable midsummer adventure awaits for the St Malachy’s pupils this week at the theatre.