October 22, 2021

Candlelit Shakespeare with Bart Lee Theatre

On Thursday afternoon, Year 7, 8 and 9 were overcome with enthusiasm for everything Shakespeare, following an exclusive performance of Macbeth from touring company, Bart Lee Theatre.

Dubbed as ‘candlelit Shakespeare’, the adaption of the political tragedy was a unique experience for the audience; as the lights dimmed the play was quite literally shrouded in darkness with only pockets of candlelight to illuminate the stage. “I loved it! Absolutely excellent.” exclaimed one student as the audience applauded a dramatic end and the lights returned. “Very scary!” exclaimed another.

In a Q&A following the performance, students engaged in a stimulated discussion with the four actors, covering the topics of perfecting the Scottish accent, learning the language of Shakespeare, choreographing combat scenes, and improvisation on stage, to name a few.

Unlike his fellow actors, returning to the Park as Macbeth, Old Leightonian, Ben Dearden, was able to boast familiarity with the Hall’s unusual octagonal shape which essentially encompasses a thrust formation stage. Nevertheless, this did not faze the practised group who spoke about being well accustomed to improvising, reacting to the audience and best utilising the various spaces they tour around.

Ben, who graduated as an actor from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts London, has said “Acting has allowed me to learn more about myself and has helped me to mature as a person, learning how to connect and engage with people.” In 2009, as a student he took on the role of ‘The Jets’ member in the School’s production of West Side Story.

On playing Macbeth, he commented “Every time I’ve played him I’ve learnt a bit more about him. I can see myself sitting down for a drink with him. There’s no one way of playing a character, it’s what you interpret them to be.”

In the words on Director, Bart Lee, “Ben, because he plays Macbeth, sees him as a person. Ben feels Macbeth’s worry, his doubt and experiences his nerves, his racing heartbeat, his each and every breath for every second of the play.” The discussion surrounding the character’s culpability, left students with much to reflect on in their write ups of the afternoon.

When questioned about the lighting situation, Sophie Spencer, having dropped the guise of ruthless Lady Macbeth, explained “…because it’s such a mystical play anyway, the darkness really adds to the secrecy and the feel of the whole piece.”

“The darkness adds to Shakespeare because he is so verbal, it makes your imagination work.” furthered Michael Workman who plays Duncan. “…Also great for jump scares.” enthused Benji Gavan, following his portrayal of Macduff. Throughout the play, few students were left unaffected by the eerie witches who floated amongst the audience.

“I really liked the way the witches moved – how did you come up with that idea?” asked one Fryer. Showing the attention to detail in their production, the cast explained the choreographic skills of their Movement Director and Dialect Coach.

Later in the session, the bard was well defended by the room as they debated the hot topic of ‘Why Shakespeare?’ “The themes in Shakespeare’s plays are very much things that translate now. For example, in Macbeth we’ve got greed, be careful what you wish for, ambition. Hamlet has got grief, bereavement… it’s got jealously… all of Shakespeare’s work has these genuine emotions that everyone feels, it doesn’t matter what time period they’re in. If you can emote the text, it makes it a lot easier to understand.” remarked Sophie who cites Much Ado About Nothing as her favourite Shakespeare play.

Regarding line learning, top tips from the experts included recording and playing them back, locking yourself in a room and altering your voice to differentiate between characters. Michael even revealed, “Sometimes I don’t remember them, but that’s the fun of it!” Further inspiring advice from the actors included “Know your characters inside and out so that you can be spontaneous with them.” and “Being fearless with acting and just running with your emotion is the exciting thing about it.”

Old Leightonian, Ben (orange top) in West Side Story, 2009

How can we help?

Take the next step by selecting an option below, or if you want to drop us a quick message, you can do so with the form.

Shinfield Road
Berkshire, UK
+44 (0) 118 987 9600
Request a prospectus Arrange a visit Make an application
Contact Us
I agree with your terms & conditions and privacy policy *
I would like to receive updates from Leighton Park, including updates about upcoming events