BY CARAGH BELL
TRANSITION year students at Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty performed Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ last month in the school auditorium. The famous annual school musical had to be cancelled this year due to Covid restrictions and this caused huge disappointment amongst the student body.
Aoibhe Daly, a 15-year-old TY student, decided to do something about it. She suggested performing a socially-distanced version of the famous Shakespearean play and there was immediate interest from her peers. Permission was granted by the principal, Ms Ann Marie Brosnan, and auditions were held. What followed was rigorous rehearsing, after school and at weekends, and fundraising for costumes and props.
‘It was a lot of hard work,’ Aoibhe says, ‘but it was worth it. It was a student-led production from start to finish and we learned so much about producing a play.’
They certainly did. They painted the set themselves, sourced Elizabethan costumes, held a bake sale to fund their endeavours, edited the script, and created a balcony for that iconic scene.
They held an art competition amongst the Junior Cycle students to design a poster for the play. The winning poster was printed and distributed around the school.
They had their own Instagram account (@romeoandjuliet_shss2020) and even Ryan Tubridy gave them a shout out on his radio show.
When asked why she chose Shakespeare, a daunting task to say the least, Aoibhe told us that she and her fellow students had studied the play the year before. She also said that she attended a RSC production of ‘King John’ in Stratford-Upon-Avon in December 2019 and was inspired by the performance.
‘King John was played by a female actor and the cast wore modern clothes. The music was like something from a Tarantino movie. I could see that we had a lot of leeway with Shakespeare and how we could interpret it,’ she says.
The audience consisted of staggered groups of third year students, all of whom are studying ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as part of their Junior Cycle English. Denied a chance to see the play in a theatre this year, these students were extremely lucky to have it performed on their own doorstep.
The individual class groups sat on socially-distanced chairs in the large auditorium, all masked and with plenty of ventilation. Four separate groups enjoyed four separate performances performed by two separate casts.
Feedback has been very positive – one third year student said it was particularly enjoyable to see fellow teenagers on stage. She also added that it was inspiring to see how the TY students remembered all the lines. Another marvelled at the beautiful costumes and particularly liked the anachronistic music used in various scenes.
Mr William Browne, a PE and Maths teacher at Sacred Heart, supervised the students during rehearsals. He also choreographed the fight scenes as he has a background in karate. The play would never have been possible without his reassuring presence and dedication.
Ms Eileen Harte, TY co-ordinator, was also very helpful, as was Mr Rob Barry, the TY year head.
So, the Arts are alive and well at Sacred Heart. Even though Romeo and Juliet wore masks and remained socially-distanced, the star-crossed lovers still made us believe in true love. Every single person involved, from the actors to the efficient stage hands, made this a performance to remember.
It shows us the resilience, innovation and creativity of our young people. It shows us that we have to pull together and make the best of things. Rising from the ashes of the iconic Sacred Heart musical came an excellent alternative.
Bravo to all involved!