Performing Shakespeare: A National Youth Theatre Experience

A blog from Hayley Osborne about her experience on the Performing Shakespeare course at the National Youth Theatre

Spotlight recently awarded one lucky member a place on the National Youth Theatre's Performing Shakespeare course - here's our winner, Hayley Osborne on her experience during that week. If you like the sound of this one, there'll be more from the NYT as part of Spotlight's upcoming Open House events - a taster of their Masterclass: Start-Up Saturdays

Two weeks ago, I was incredibly lucky to have won a place on the National Youth Theatre’s course “Performing Shakespeare” via Spotlight. It was led by James Simmons, and we had to prepare a monologue that he would work with us on, before performing our monologues in a mock audition. The audition would be in front of James, Ebe Bamgboye (National Youth Theatre member and his assistant for the week) and Patricia Doyle (Actress, Director, and National Theatre Mentor). Patricia was one of the first women brought into the National Youth Theatre, paving the way for the generations after. To say I was excited was an understatement!

The first thing that struck me was the charisma of James and Ebe, bringing us all together as a team. They started with fun games to get us in an open frame of mind and warmed up. Then we’d focus on physical and voice warm-ups, playing with presence, breath control, projection and all manner of technicalities needed for performing.

Some of the warm ups were new to me and I’ll definitely be incorporating them into my routine from now on! It’s a testament to them that they created such a warm, open environment that we all went for it with no fear or embarrassment, completely in the moment. The same could be said for performing our monologues.

James and Ebe set time aside each day to give us individual attention and I feel honoured to have had that, as their insight was incredible. Not only with Shakespeare but with physicality, intentions, relationships and psychology within the play and characters. I chose a monologue as Lady Macbeth, as I thought, ‘What better opportunity to try and nail this speech than now?’ As my speech is made up of her reactions within a conversation, James performed with me as my Macbeth, so I could react to each change of intention - that was the absolute highlight of my week! To have performed with someone of his experience and to have felt the incredible energy he has when performing was indescribable.

James is so passionate in what he does that you follow suit. When you’re performing, you feel yourself open up more each time, until eventually you’re finding ideas to bring to the character that you didn’t realise you were capable of. I adore Lady Macbeth, but was thrown off playing her by someone who told me I looked too young - both James and Patricia assured me that is nonsense, with Patricia having played her at 23. Alongside their notes, this really boosted my determination.

This course has given me the confidence to believe in myself, to believe in my understanding of Shakespeare, and not see it as this special club I can’t be a part of. The teachers have introduced me to new ways of seeing Shakespeare, opening my mind to so many possibilities for interpretation. My passion for his work has heightened, and I have been applying non-stop to Shakespeare companies as well as to go on to do more workshops. I’m even planning to put on a production of Macbeth.

Thank you so much to Spotlight and the National Youth Theatre for giving me this opportunity. If anybody wants to up their Shakespeare game, I couldn’t recommend this course enough! Seize the opportunity, it’ll be so much more than you expect!

Thank you to Hayley for this blog! If you have any questions for Hayley, get in touch on Twitter or Instagram. Read more about the experiences of other NYT courses below:

Keep an eye out for our upcoming taster session at Spotlight's Open House!

Image Credit: Hayley Osborne