Shakespeare’s words “all the world’s a stage” are being taken quite literally as a new youth arts project ‘Stratford 2 Stratford’ sets sail this June (Saturday 27 June – Sunday 5 July).
Performing arts and media students from Chobham Academy will be embarking on an eight day canal journey from their school in Stratford east London to Stratford-upon-Avon.
The students will travel along the Regent’s Canal through central London and then up to Rickmansworth, navigate the Grand Union Canal through Berkhamsted and Hatton, and lastly enjoy the South Stratford and Stratford-upon-Avon Canals as they arrive at Shakespeare’s birth-place.
On arrival they will be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Dell Open Air Theatre on Saturday 4July and at the Stratford River Festival on Sunday 5 July.
Working with The Rubbish Shakespeare Company and Chobham Academy, the project combines the Canal & River Trust’s successful Arts on the Waterways programme with its Cabinet Office recognised youth engagement work. By combining these two areas of the Trust’s experience, and working with expert partners, the charity aims to help young people develop new skills, boost their confidence and introduce them to canals.
Tim Eastop, Executive Producer of Arts on the Waterways, says: “Our programme is all about inspiring new audiences and talented artists. We want people to look at the waterways in a new light – we believe that this journey through Shakespeare’s words and the canals could be life-changing for these students, taking them into shifting settings that can creatively influence their perspectives and aspirations.”
David Bradley, an Associate RSC actor best known for his roles in the Harry Potter films and US series Game of Thrones, is supporting the project. He says: “I have been a lover of our canal network for many years and even lived on a boat in my early acting days so I know the waterways are bursting with inspiration and stories. This project is a really exciting way to develop young people and teach them the magic of Shakespeare, while experiencing the beautiful heritage and wildlife of the canals. They will learn many skills which they can use in the future and I hope they will also inspire others in their generation.”
For the past few months the 30 students have been exploring plot, character, themes and text through workshops with Rubbish Shakespeare Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Armed with their roles, a script and a sense of adventure, the students will spend their canal journey rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Working with actors from the professional theatre company, the students will bring to life the themes of nature, water and freedom having taken inspiration from the canals they travel along. Their production will be a mix of Shakespeare’s original text as well as the students’ own language.
From sorting costumes to promoting their theatre company on social media (#BardOnBoats), steering the boats to opening locks - the young theatre company will gain confidence in their abilities and develop their creativity.
Stratford 2 Stratford is being supported by Urban & Civic plc. through its Chairman Nigel Hugill, the Canal & River Trust through its Chairman Tony Hales and by Players of the People's Postcode Lottery. Kate Pearson from People’s Postcode Lottery says: “When we heard about the project, it jumped out at us as a brilliant way to get young people to experience the waterways in a new and exciting way and one that will really resonate with our players. We are really proud to support the Stratford 2 Stratford project to give new skills, confidence and aspirations to these young people in such a unique environment as canals and rivers.”