Just imagine some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters but thrown together all in one play. It might seem a bit random but not in this powerful, innovative and moving production.
‘Excluded’ manages to keep the fundamental traits of each character as they are in Shakespeare’s works and then they’re all brought together in a modern-day classroom at William High – all teenagers taking their GCSEs.
It all begins in the playground with a rap battle – an unexpected start – but a refreshing one already highlighting divides between the young characters. It’s a unique way of introducing some of them and they include Hamlet, Othello, Iago, Romeo and Beatrice, naming but a few.
And with the sound of the school bell, the audience follows the students to their classroom. Everyone sits around the set and it doesn’t matter where you are, you’ll still see and feel everything. And you might even find yourself closer to the action as some of the characters sit amongst the audience, rotating around depending on the scene.
At some point we’re introduced to each student – the scene is playing out and then suddenly everything freezes – the character will step away and we learn something about them. When they’re done, they each fit back into the scene and its resumes.
It’s like a game of musical statues but without the music, but a really clever way of bringing each character to life without them all blending into one teenager.
Using this classroom setting ‘Excluded’ is able to highlight flaws in the British education system and also sheds a light on some of the issues some young people might be experiencing in silence –a parent who has a drug abuse problem, parents who might not be around much or take much of an interest, a family member in prison, the death of a parent – all things that can affect young people in some way, whether it is positive or negative.
There’s an unexpected twist at the end – which evokes all sorts of feelings inside – even typing this out it gives me goosebumps, not because it’s scary, but because this is real life for some children and their families and it doesn’t have to be this way.
‘Excluded’ is written by Intermission Theatre’s Artistic Director Darren Raymond and he does an exceptional job making Shakespeare modern and relevant to today.
The theatre group itself works with young people aged between 16 and 25 who may have experienced various challenging circumstances in their lives and all but two of the entire cast has at some point been excluded from school. The 10-month programme helps to build people’s confidence, give them life skills and encourage self-expression as well as the all-important opportunity to build a career in acting.
And you can see how it all culminates in the final product – the delivery of the entire performance felt real, it was done with passion, confidence and real energy and it was fantastic seeing so many young people performing so brilliantly on stage despite having so many pairs of eyes on them.
‘Excluded’ is on until 30 November and it’s a fantastic way of supporting young people who clearly have a love for acting and a desire to do well in life.
Two casts are performing on various dates and on the review night it was the following actors who all quite rightly deserve a mention:
Miss Portia: Ashley Hodges
Mr Wright: Jaspreet Bance
Marcus: Mark Akintimehin
Mum: Niara Rowe
Claudio: Sharai-Raven Mae
Iago: Roshana Roberts
Juliet: Pia Kara Lexi Somerby
Cas: Batanga Bokula
Brutus: Elijah Blunt
Othello: Andrew Senesie
Shylock: Illani Mariott-Lodge
Caesar: Alexander ‘X’ Lobo Moreno
Anthony: Tyrese Taylor
Calpurnia: Sian-Leigh Moore
Lady Macbeth: Destinée Bishop
Macbeth: Shackiem Keen
Hamlet: Oliver Knight
Beatrice: Destiny Tola Onisilé
Benedict: Ibrahim Konate
Bottom: Crerar Antony
Isabel: Rakiya Hasan
Cinna: Tane Armachie Siah
Romeo: Kai Jerdioui
It runs until 30 November
Review: Sunita Jaswal Photo: Richard Jinman